Salt Lake City, UT — “He’s got a gun!” and “He’s pointing, he’s pointing!” were two phrases Salt Lake City police officers shouted earlier this month before opening fire on a popular local rapper from Glendale, killing him. However, nearly 3 weeks after the shooting, police confirmed on Wednesday that there was no gun.
Also on Wednesday, police released the body camera footage from that night, showing officers opening fire on the unarmed Cody Belgard. What's more, another video shows his girlfriend tell officers—before they shot him—that Belgard has no gun.
The family spoke to the Salt Lake Tribune this week noting that Belgard was shot in the back, according to the autopsy.
The incident happened on Nov. 9 and began with police stopping the young man and then Belgard running from police in his vehicle and striking a cruiser along the way.
As the SLT reports, police first encountered Belgard in a Sugar House parking lot earlier that night, Capt. Lance VanDongen said in a news conference Wednesday. He and his girlfriend were in “a vehicle that had fled from officers in a previous incident the week before,” VanDongen said. It is not clear whether Belgard or his girlfriend were involved in that previous encounter or why police were pursuing the car; police have declined to comment further while West Valley City investigates the shooting.
The SLT reports that the video shows, at 7:37 p.m. that night, police approached Belgrad and his girlfriend in the car. They order the couple to put their hands up.
“Take the hand out of your pocket,” shouts one officer.
Belgard's girlfriend complies with officers and gets out of the car as she cries, “Cody, just get out, please!”
But Belgard did not comply.
“Hey! Hey! Does he have a gun?” an officer asks the woman, who remains unnamed.
“No, he does not have a gun,” the woman replies, shaking her head. “He doesn’t have a gun, nothing.”
That's when Belgard made the unfortunate decision to flee in his vehicle. As he fled, he backed up and struck a police cruiser and then sped away with the driver's side door still open. As he drove off, the woman begged him to stop.
“Because the driver’s actions posed a significant threat to the public, several officers pursued the vehicle during a chase that ended at 800 N. Sir Philip Drive,” Capt. VanDongen said.
Eventually, police would encounter Belgard again, this time on foot, right outside of his girlfriend's house.
As the video shows, officers order Belgard to drop to his knees and surrender, but Belgard doesn't listen.
“Don’t be stupid, bro,” one says. “It’s not worth it, man.”
“He’s not listening. He’s keeping his hands in his pockets,” says another.
“Does someone have less-lethal?” one officer asks.
One officer on the scene was a K-9 officer. “I’ve got a K-9, I’m coming around,” says the K-9 officer.
However, he was around the block and by the time he would arrive, police would have already shot Belgard.
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Less than thirty seconds after asking for non-lethal, police begin claiming Belgard has a gun and is pointing it at them. That's when they open fire and begin shooting.
Belgard falls to the ground.
As he is seen lying on the ground while the life leaves his body, one of the officers shouts, "Hey, he’s still got that gun! He still has the gun!” But no such gun existed.
Officers can be heard after the shooting, frantically searching for the gun. But a gun was never found.
“Where’s our gun?”
“I don’t know.”
“I think it was a f**king cellphone.”
After failing to find the gun, officers start handcuffing Belgard who is still able to speak, telling them that he "can't breathe."
“I’m dying,” he tells the officers. To which another officer replies, “You’re all right, and you’re not dying. You’re OK. They’re gonna help you, they’re gonna help you.”
But they could not help him and Belgard would die at the hospital that night. Belgard's family is now speaking out about this tragedy, noting that the official version of events does not match the video.
“They murdered my son,” said Belgard’s father, Mike Belgard. “You don’t even have any idea what it feels like to see a person as good as Cody get shot down like a dog. Something’s gotta be done with these police. They can’t just go around shooting people.”
“The footage doesn’t match what they’re saying,” said Marvin Oliveros, Belgard’s older brother. “Everybody saw his back turned.”
According to the SLT, the day before he was killed, Belgard had a conversation about police shootings with his son.
“I said, ‘Cody, what I’ve seen, these police officers shooting people — it scares me.’ He says, ‘Dad, they won’t shoot me.’ He says, ‘I have minimum crimes.’ I said, ‘Cody, you know you got retail theft and stuff. You gotta be careful.’ He walks out of the house, and the next day he gets shot.”
Belgard's brother said that his brother ran that night because he feared police.
“In situations like this, people get in a fight-or-flight mode,” Oliveros said. “What they’re trying to paint a picture of is he used that vehicle as a weapon. What we know is when they made contact with him [in Rose Park], he no longer had that vehicle in his possession. We know the female [passenger] specifically said he has no weapons, he has no guns. What we also know is that there was a K-9 seconds away. They had him contained, they had a dog on scene.
“They knew he had no violent history,” Oliveros continued. “They had no other reason to believe he had a weapon, other than this tactic that police use when they know they’re being videotaped, when they know there might be potential witnesses around. They just throw out things like ‘He has a weapon, he has a gun.’ They all said that, but yet we find no weapon and no gun. And those statements are what triggered five officers firing on this young man, a very talented, well-loved, nonviolent young man. … If this could happen to him, this could happen to any of your kids.”
Indeed, as the video below shows, police don't need an actual gun to open fire on someone, they just need to claim there's one.
SLC police have killed 16 people this year. The highest number in recent memory. Belgard was the 14th person killed by the department.