Elizabeth, NJ — Michael Bates, 37, was trying to get the attention of police last month, to tell them that someone had beaten up his girlfriend, when without warning or provocation, police opened fire on him. Bates was unarmed, standing by himself, and hadn’t harmed anyone. Nevertheless, to cover their mistake, Bates was arrested and charged on multiple counts—despite being the victim.
The incident happened in December and now Bates is going after the officers to get them brought up on charges, and rightfully so.
At around 2 a.m. on December 22, police were responding to a domestic violence call of which Bates had no part. According to the official account from the officers, as police responded to the call, they say Bates approached them and began making threats. None of this is seen on the video.
Police also claim that Bates was yelling he had a gun and threatened to shoot the officers “while multiple civilians were also present in the area,” according to his criminal complaint. Again, none of this is seen on the video.
In fact, the video shows quite the opposite. At no time is Bates seen threatening the officers or anyone else for that matter. However, he is seen attempting to calm them down—even after he was shot.
The body camera videos were released this week and appear to show what may have caused police to over react. As the officers are responding to an unrelated call, one man is heard asking, “yo, does he have a gun in his hand? He has a gun,” referring to Bates.
The officer then echoes that statement, “Yo, does he have a gun in his hand?” the officer says, before declaring, “He has a gun.”
Instead of verifying the claims of this random bystander that falsely claimed Bates had a gun, police simply opened fire, without warning.
Multiple shots then ring out and Bates is shot in the stomach.
After they shoot him, police keep yelling at him as they demand he produce the non-existent weapon.
“Where’s the gun,” an officer asks Bates after he is shot. “What did you just come at us with, man. What the f—- did you have in your hand?”
After Bates was shot by the officers, he was so scared that he actually began calming them down.
Bates responded, “No gun, no gun. I have a cell phone.”
As cops continue to berate him, Bates talks in a calm voice and says “Relax, relax, relax,” at the officers. “I got ya’ll.”
“Ya’ll did what ya’ll supposed to do” he tells them.
After they had him in handcuffs and he’s bleeding out, Bates tries to tell the officers that someone assaulted his girlfriend.
“They beat my girl up,” he said. “They jumped my girl, yo.”
Bates was then arrested and held in the hospital on multiple counts including making terroristic threats, a third-degree charge, and causing or risking widespread injury or damage, a fourth-degree offense.
Civil rights attorney Abraham Rubert-Schewel, who is representing Bates in his excessive force case against the department explained just how ridiculous this situation was.
“(The officers) hear a commotion outside, they run downstairs, they view Mr. Bates for maybe a second,” Rubert-Schewel said. “He is walking in the street, and they fire and they shoot. He does not have a gun. They do not give a warning. They do not ask to stop. They do not use any lesser version of force or warning, which they could have.”
According to NJ.com, Rubert-Schewel said Bates was walking past the intersection of Court and Third streets when officers responding to a commotion outside ran downstairs and fired on Bates without warning. Only the officers who were upstairs fired, he said.
“The police, in an attempt to justify the shooting, claimed Mr. Bates charged the officers and yelled ‘I have a gun,’” Rubert-Schewel said.
Luckily, a judge reviewed the body camera and found that it completely contradicted what the officers said. She then ordered Bates’ release, noting that there was no evidence of a crime. Judging from the transcripts, the court was reluctant to have to go against the police and make this decision, but had no other choice.
“I’m not saying it didn’t occur. I’m just not sure how it occurred,” the judge said, according to a transcript of the hearing shared by Bates’ attorney. “ … it doesn’t appear to be exactly as stated with the waiving of the gun. ‘I’m going to kill you,” … it just doesn’t seem … I’m not saying it didn’t happen … But from what I have, it just doesn’t appear that way.”
Below is a video showing why those who attack police accountability activists need to consider the entire situation before demonizing everyone shot or killed by cops. Many times they are unarmed and even entirely innocent.
The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office is currently reviewing the shooting.