Activists: Firefighter RPD officer who confronted Molotov gunman
Activists on Friday called on Raleigh Police Chief Estella Patterson to fire an officer who they say provoked and escalated a deadly confrontation with a man who was throwing Molotov cocktails outside a police station.
Senior Officer PW Coates should be fired, Dawn Blagrove, executive director of Emancipate NC, said at a press conference outside the Southeast District train station, where Reuel Rodriguez-Núñez was killed on May 7 after throwing cups of flammable liquid at officers.
“If there are no real consequences for people’s actions, then their actions don’t change,” Blagrove said. “Why on earth should Raleigh pay for an officer who chose to abuse the trust placed in him, by killing a man who was in a mental health crisis?”
Patterson said that Rodriguez-Núñez disregarded repeated orders to stop throwing the incendiary weapons, and that after throwing one at an officer, four officers at the scene fired 30 rounds at him.
According to a report Patterson released five days after the shooting, Coates repeatedly told Rodriguez-Núñez “Go ahead. [expletive]do it do it!” and shouted to the other officers “Give me the go-ahead!”
“Where is the responsibility of the officers who bullied this man in mental health crisis?” Emancipate NC activist Kerwin Pittman asked at the press conference.
“Individuals were desperate for the situation, but yet he chose to escalate the situation and basically provoke and intimidate someone having a mental health crisis,” Pittman continued. “If someone was having a mental health crisis and was standing on the edge of a bridge about to jump, it was like that officer running over there and saying, ‘Jump, jump! Go ahead, do it! Jump, go ahead, do it!”
Jasiel Rodriguez-Núñez, Reuel’s older brother, was also present at the press conference.
“It’s a very difficult time for me and my family and it wasn’t supposed to end like this,” said Jasiel Rodriguez-Núñez. “My brother (…) had just sent a message about his mental illness. It was a way of expressing himself in his mind. He was having a depression.
Reuel had been jailed in 2021 and had issues there that extended his sentence, his brother said. He was going through “difficult times” after being released in September last year, he said.
Security footage shows it took an officer about 15 minutes to arrive in the parking lot after Rodriguez-Nuñez pulled over, got out of a van and threw a pot of urine and feces at him. entrance to the police station.
He retrieved and lit goblets of flammable liquid to burn two vehicles parked nearby.
“It was completely like a person in a mental health crisis,” Toshiba Rice said, who identified herself as a mental health professional for imWELL, a mental health clinic, during the press conference.
“The evidence that he broke into a police station without a bulletproof vest and used urine and feces as an offense was the first indicator that this was a mental health crisis, as well as Mr. Núñez’s body language, actions to target object ownership to destroy and complement nonverbal presentation,” she said.
Emancipate NC Requirements
Blagrove read Emancipate NC’s demands, which included:
▪ Shooting coats.
▪ Withdrawal of his law enforcement certificate.
▪ Withdrawing his salary while he is placed on administrative leave as the matter is being investigated by the police and the State Bureau of Investigation.
The city should invest in a “mobile crisis response team external to law enforcement,” for the Raleigh Police ACORNS unit to respond to “all calls for service from a person in distress mental illness or having a mental health crisis,” according to requests from Emancipate NC. .
Emancipate NC also wants every agent in the department to undergo de-escalation, crisis intervention, and character building.
Officers involved in the May 7 shooting are being investigated to determine if they violated department policy, Raleigh Police Department Lt. Jason Borneo said in an email. Internal and SBI investigations are common when officers shoot suspects.
What the police footage showed
Security and body camera footage documented the deadly encounter – including one of an officer, identified as Coates, shouting, “Go ahead (expletive), do it.”
An arriving officer asks Rodriguez-Núñez, “What’s going on, man? ” What is happening ? The officer hasn’t drawn his gun and shrugs as he speaks.
Rodriguez-Núñez can be heard responding, “Today…it’s my day to move on.”
The same officer says: “Calm down my brother. You don’t have to do this.
Coates, wearing body camera 3 in the town video, is closest to Rodriguez-Nunez and pulled his gun from its holster.
“Do it! Do it! Go (expletive). Go right (expletive) ahead. Go (expletive). Do it! Do it!” he shouts.
Another officer says “raise your hands” as body camera officer 3 continues to say “Do it!”
“Give me the green light,” Coates is heard saying.
Several officers order Rodriguez-Núñez to drop the Molotov cocktails, as seen in the footage.
“Get your hands out of your (expletive) pockets!” Coates shouts, along with “Don’t (expletive), I’m done with you!”
Patterson’s report states that a hot liquid hit the floor where Coates was standing, “only narrowly missing him because he got out of the way.”
Keith Taylor, a former NYPD detective who now teaches at the John Jay College for Criminal Justice in New York, reviewed body camera footage at the request of The News & Observer.
Officers may have been right to react with lethal force due to an armed threat, he said, but the “provocative language” used by Coates “probably would not be acceptable behavior for most, if not all the police services”.
“If the officer used language that incited or taunted that individual to commit acts of violence against the officer, that is not appropriate in any situation, whether it is an explosive thrown at officers or ‘a gun, the threat of being shot,” Taylor said in an interview. “Officers should never incite or taunt anyone into committing acts of violence against them.”
Taylor said he would like to know if the officers could have developed a plan of action, to have the opportunity to get better cover and protect themselves.
“Did (the police) simply respond and then collectively decide to shoot this individual when he was not complying and actively threatening them?” Taylor asked. “Was there sufficient time to consider other options that may not possibly result in the death of this individual.”
Filming by Daniel Turcios
Emancipate NC has now twice called for greater police accountability, following two fatal shootings of men by Raleigh officers this year.
In January, Daniel Turcios, 43, was fatally shot by police after he appeared to swing a knife at an officer following a shipwreck on the side of Interstate 440.
Emancipate NC later joined his family in calling on prosecutors to file criminal charges against two officers who tasered and shot Turcios.
This story was originally published June 10, 2022 10:22 a.m.