San Bernardino, CA — San Bernardino officer Brandon Gaddie is out of a job this month after a year-old body camera video was made public showing him kill 27-year-old Richard Sanchez. Sanchez was shot five times by Gaddie as his hands were in the air, above his head.
In 2014, the phrase “hands up, don’t shoot” became the rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement as well as police accountability activists in general. By raising your arms in the air and showing police your empty hands, this serves as a de-escalation tactic to put officers at ease by letting them know you are not a threat. Sadly, however, when Sanchez put his hands in the air, he was killed.
According to police, they were called to the scene that night by a relative of Sanchez who told the 911 dispatcher that Sanchez was intoxicated, making threats, and saying irrational things. When police arrived on scene, Sanchez was holding a gun. Amazingly enough, they did not immediately kill him. Instead, police yelled at Sanchez to “drop the gun,” and, eventually, he did.
Officers then ordered the 27-year-old apparently intoxicated father of two to put his hands in the air. Just like he dropped the gun earlier, Sanchez put his hands up too.
However, likely due to the fact that he was intoxicated, Sanchez continued to walk toward the cops. The now-unarmed man, with his hands in the air, was apparently enough to cause Gaddie to fear for his life, so he opened fire on Sanchez, shooting him five times. As Sanchez falls to the ground, body camera footage catches his relative’s scream from inside the home.
“Suddenly, and without being told to do so, Sanchez advanced toward the officers, taking eight steps,” Sgt. John Echevarria said in a briefing on the video.
Those eight steps were Sanchez’s death sentence.
No one here is claiming that Sanchez was some angel, but like all US citizens, he deserved due process — which he clearly did not get.
According to the Washington Post, police say they responded to the home in San Bernardino after Sanchez’s sister-in-law called to say he was threatening family members in the kitchen with a handgun and making odd statements — for example, that he was “God.” The woman feared for her safety and escaped the house with children, according to officials.
Luckily, no one else was hurt during this incident.
After Gaddie killed Sanchez, police released a statement — a year later — noting that dumping five rounds into an unarmed man with his hands in the air is not part of their “standards.”
“Upon completion of our internal investigation and review process, we’ve concluded that one of our officer’s decision-making did not meet the standards held by our department or the community we serve,” McBride said in the video. “As a result he no longer works for the San Bernardino Police Department.”
According to the San Bernardino Sun, McBride did not say whether Officer Brandon Gaddie was fired or resigned.
“Our administrative review process does not make a determination about whether the officer’s actions were lawful,” McBride said in the video. “The determination of the lawfulness of the shooting will be made by the District Attorney’s Office, which is currently reviewing the incident.”
“We will do a thorough review regarding whether or not the shooting was legally justified,” said a statement issued Friday by the DA’s Office.
The review “will not address whether the tactics or actions of any involved officer fall within the police agency’s use of force guidelines or whether civil liability should follow from these events,” it said.
After the video was released, the family’s attorney released a statement praising the department for transparency in the matter and for accepting responsibility for killing a man with his hands up. This is a welcomed move considering so much body camera footage showing police officers kill people remains under lock and key and out of the public’s eye.
The family of Richard Sanchez remains overcome with grief over the sudden and unexpected loss of their beloved husband, brother, father, and son and continue to feel the anguish on a daily basis from the loss of a life that cannot be replaced.
While Richard’s sudden passing has left a void that cannot be filled in the lives of his family members, the family is honored and encouraged by the swift acceptance of responsibility by the leadership of the San Bernardino Police Department—whose investigation into this tragic incident was aimed at uncovering the truth, even when this meant acknowledging the mistakes of a fellow officer.
By pursuing the truth and by adopting a transparent approach to the investigation of this officer-involved-shooting, the San Bernardino Police Department has demonstrated a model of transparency in which the Sanchez family hopes is emulated by police departments facing similar incidents nationwide.
Below is this most disturbing footage, narrated by the police.