“Monique!” an Anaheim policeman called out twice while tapping on Monique Deckard’s apartment door. “We know you’re in there. Can you come out and talk to us?”
Anaheim city attorney Moses Johnson played the 12-minute footage from officer Dale Miller’s body-worn camera yesterday in front of a nearly all-white jury seated before Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter J. Wilson’s courtroom. The fatal officer-involved shooting of Deckard nearly two years ago on March 8, 2015 was the first since Anaheim police changed policy to be outfitted with body cameras in an effort to promote greater transparency, although the public has never had the chance to view them. Johnson’s police officer defendants had been named in a wrongful death and civil rights lawsuit.
The courtroom footage showed officers attempting to coax Deckard out of her apartment after she had tried to stab a woman at a nearby laundromat earlier that day, wounding her only superficially. A dog barked at the cops before Deckard’s desperate voice emerged. “Just fucking kill me!” she moaned. “I want you to fucking kill me!”
Officers began retreating and taking up positions by two palm trees in the courtyard of the apartment complex. “Monique, it’s the police,” officer Robert Lopez said. “We just want to help you. Come on out.” Another policeman began evacuating residents from two adjacent apartments while officer David DePriest left to fetch a bean bag shotgun.
But Miller took cover behind two garbage cans that police set up in front of one palm tree. “I’ll hold, you shoot,” a fellow officer told him, placing another object on top of the garbage cans. The view of Deckard’s front door was obscured from Miller’s body camera, but police can be heard telling her to come out with nothing in her hands.
“Put your hands up! Put your hands up! officers abruptly screamed when Deckard emerged from her apartment. A fusillade of bullets rang out that left her body slumped near the garbage cans.
Deckard family attorney John Sweeney, whose mentor was the late Johnnie Cochran, grilled Miller on the stand during the afternoon session of the trial. He asked the cop if he had any idea Deckard was mentally ill. “No, I did not,” Miller responded, with a quick glance to the jury. (Deckard’s family had called Anaheim police dispatchers about two hours before the stabbing and the shooting, worriedly noting she had “a history of instability” and looked to buy a gun). Sweeney, wearing a black pinstripe suit, followed by asking if Miller had every heard of “distance plus time equals options” before in suggesting their makeshift barricade was too close. The cop affirmed he had.
“Do you think that was the answer of a rational person?” the attorney followed, citing Deckard’s death wish. Miller answered “no,” but also noted similar statements made by suspects over the course of his then-nine year career in law enforcement didn’t always signal mental illness.
After the video, Johnson took his turn at asking Miller a couple questions, including one query into Anaheim PD’s policy on using deadly force. “We continue to fire until that threat is mitigated,” Miller stated on the stand. The city attorney then showed the jury a photograph of a large kitchen knife and a smaller blade, which Deckard charged at the officers with. Upon first glance, the angle of Miller’s footage, who fired seven times, and the quickness of the shooting didn’t clearly depict the moment prompting a split-second decision to use deadly force.
Sweeney returned to ask Miller if having known Deckard was mentally ill would have changed anything about the police response that day. “No, it would not have,” he responded. Police responded to a felonious call, he testified.
Johnson next questioned DePriest on the stand. He readied to play the cop’s body camera footage before Judge Wilson asked if it would add anything that hasn’t already been made known to the jury. Videos from other officers had been shown earlier in the trial. After a quick side bar, the video played. It only differed in showing another angle of Deckard’s body down on the ground after the shooting, a dramatic and disturbing scene that adjourned court for the day.
The civil trial is expected to continue until next week but upon Judge Wilson’s orders, no more body camera footage will be shown in full.
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!