The San Diego Police Officers who opened fire and killed an armed suspect in the Gaslamp Quarter have been identified by the department.
Officer Scott Thompson, a 30-year veteran of the department, and Officer Gregory Lindstrom, a 25-year veteran of the department, were in the Gaslamp Quarter on traffic patrol when the incident happened.
While on patrol, they observed Lamontez Ardelbert Jones, 39, of Virginia, disrupting traffic, according to SDPD Capt. David Nisleit. There was no radio call, he said.
"They got off their motorcycles right there at the intersection at 6th and F just as the suspect was removing his firearm," Nisleit said.
Department policy states an officer will activate the body camera after a radio call or before an enforcement contact. However, neither officer activated a recording.
“Things happened so very quickly I think everyone will understand it’s reasonable that officer safety and public safety will take precedence over an officer’s ability to record,” Zimmerman said.
As she answered multiple questions about the department policy, the chief said it's not known if the officers initiated a recording using the devices after the shooting.
"I don't believe they had the ability to hit the record button," Zimmerman said.
The homicide captain said the officers immediately rendered aid to the suspect which again is more important than starting the camera.
Moments before his death, Jones ran into the middle of the street, pulled what appeared to be a large caliber handgun from his backpack and pointed it at the officers, according to police officials.
Investigators later determined the weapon was not a real firearm but a steel replica with the same markings as a true weapon.
Officers opened fire, Jones fell, then sat up, raised what looked like a hangun, and officers shot him again, according to witnesses. NBC 7 has obtained mobile phone video showing the man on the ground moments before the fatal gunshot was fired.
“When our officers are facing the barrel of a handgun or some other life-threatening situation, we expect their first consideration is protecting themselves and our citizens,” Zimmerman said.
The department has distributed more than 950 body cameras to its force and Zimmerman said there is a learning curve for officers when it comes to activating the technology.
She said the department is constantly revisiting the body camera policy. The cameras are always on a 30-second buffer. Officers must activate a button to record video. Department storage does not allow continuous recording of body cameras, Zimmerman said.
The chief has also sent a request to Taser, the provider of the department's cameras, to see if there is existing technology that would activate an officer’s body camera when a service weapon is drawn.
Investigators say Jones arrived in San Diego the day before the shooting.
Police in Hampton, Virginia, also identified Jones as the suspect in a May 31, 2015, armed robbery of a pharmacy.
Victims claim a man wearing a black mask and all dark clothing entered the store with a shotgun and demanded the combination to the store safe. When employees didn’t give the information, the suspect struck one of them with the shotgun. No arrest was made and a warrant was issued for Jones in connection with the robbery.
Nisleit described Jones as having a propensity for violence and served a prison sentence for a previous shooting beginning in June 2012.
Court records from Norfolk, Virginia, show Jones pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the 2009 shooting death of his roommate. He served three years in prison for the charge.
Once the weapon recovered from the suspect was sent to the crime lab, investigators determined it was a replica. Even seasoned officers at the scene say they believed it to be real not only at the time of the shooting but in the moments after.
The steel replica had markings the same as a true firearm, Nisleit said.
Zimmerman said her homicide investigators will examine the details of the shooting as will the San DIego County District Attorney's Office. The department's internal affairs team will also investigate. The shooting will also be part of a citizen's review board and a shooting review board that looks at tactics and training.
The department recently revised its body camera policy after a fatal shooting outside a Midway District adult bookstore on April 30.
The family of Fridoon Rawshan Nehad has filed a $20 million complaint against the department claiming SDPD Officer Neal Browder used excessive and unreasonable deadly force. The city denies that deadly force was unwarranted.
An investigation determined Nehad was carrying a pen not a knife.
Following the shooting, SDPD policy stated that instead of hitting record when they contact a suspect, officers must now turn on their cameras before they arrive at a scene.
The previous body camera policy allowed officers to wait until they had made an enforcement contact before recording.