Bodycam Footage Shows California Police Fatally Shooting A Black Man In The Back

The San Bernardino Police Department released footage showing that officers shot 23-year-old Robert Adams as he was fleeing.
Robert Adams, 23, was fatally shot while running from police who approached him in an unmarked vehicle on July 16.
Robert Adams, 23, was fatally shot while running from police who approached him in an unmarked vehicle on July 16.
San Bernardino Police Department

Police in San Bernardino, California, released body camera footage Tuesday evening showing officers fatally shooting a Black man in the back.

The footage offers new details on Saturday’s police killing of 23-year-old Robert Adams, who family says may have been unaware of law enforcement’s presence until they exited an unmarked car with guns drawn.

“The way they pulled up was like some gang members about to do a drive-by,” his father, Robert Adams Sr., told HuffPost. “They never rolled down the window and said, ‘This is the police.’ All we can see is that they jumped out the car and just started immediately opening fire.”

The San Bernardino Police Department said it received a call from a “citizen informant” on July 16 saying that a “Black male armed with a gun was in the parking lot” of what the authorities said was an illegal online gambling business.

According to police, two officers who were conducting “surveillance” in the area went to the parking lot and saw Adams holding a gun in his hand. Police said they recovered a loaded gun on the scene, but his mother disputes that he was armed.

Tamika Deavila King, Adams’ mother, told HuffPost that he was on the phone with her talking about his best friend getting a new car. King said her son was holding a cellphone, not a gun, when police arrived.

The bodycam footage shows Adams about 100 feet from the officers’ unmarked car. He took a few steps toward the car, although it’s not clear he was aware of the police officers inside.

Robert Adams in a family photo.
Robert Adams in a family photo.
Family Handout

As Adams stepped toward the unmarked vehicle, both officers jumped out. Body camera footage shows an officer with his gun already drawn as he got out of the vehicle. Surveillance footage from a nearby business shows the officers exited the car with their guns pointed toward the 23-year-old.

Adams began running in the other direction toward two cars and a wall in the parking lot, as seen in the bodycam footage.

Officers said they gave Adams verbal commands. Police Chief Darren Goodman said in remarks paired with the bodycam footage that the officers “believed” Adams intended to use the two parked cars as a cover to shoot at them.

But before Adams could turn around or find cover, an officer fired at him. The shots were fired within seconds of Adams turning from police.

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who drew attention to the shooting on social media and appeared at a press conference with the family on Wednesday, said King heard the gunshots over the phone.

Crump compared the killing of Adams to how police treat white suspects who are arrested without being killed, even after they murder multiple people. He cited several cases, including those of two white supremacists: Dylann Roof in 2015 at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and Peyton Gendron in May at a market in Buffalo, New York.

“This is a classic example of shoot first and ask questions later,” Crump said.

“We see young white males who are confirmed mass murderers and you don’t see police get out and start shooting.”

In the video, Adams is seen lying on his back near a red brick wall. While officers tried to render aid, a person in distress can be heard in the background.

“You shot my cousin, bro,” the person said in the body camera footage.

While the officer told Adams that he was “going to be OK” and “stay with me,” he kept his gun pointed toward him. Adams was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Crump posted the surveillance footage on social media on Monday, prompting outrage.

“Police in San Bernardino, CA, fatally shot 23-year-old Robert Adams execution-style! It’s reported Robert didn’t know there were police in the unmarked car before he ran for his life. We need a full investigation into this horrific execution!” Crump tweeted.

Goodman, the police chief, said the area Adams was in was known for crime and that he was a suspect for a previous robbery. It is unclear if officers knew at that time that Adams was a suspect.

“The video, which has been posted online, fails to provide critical details or context as to what actually occurred during the event,” Goodman said, referring to the surveillance footage.

Adams’ family has demanded more police accountability and questioned the tactics of the officers involved. His father told HuffPost that police shot his son in the back and the bullet also went through his arm.

Adams’ birthday was on June 1, and the two celebrated together last month, his father told HuffPost.

King, Adams’ mother, told CBS Los Angeles that her son did not pose a threat to police and was “running for his life.”

King called for Goodman to be removed as police chief. She told HuffPost she wants the officers involved in killing her son stripped over their badges and criminally charged, with the shooter charged for murder.

“He murdered my son, coldblooded,” she told HuffPost.

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