Body-cam footage showing the moment a mentally ill man was shot dead by two Dallas police officers has been released on behalf of the deceased man’s family.
According to the Dallas Morning News on Monday, the family of Jason Harrison agreed to release the video with the aim of raising questions around how deadly force is used by police officers, particularly when dealing with people with mental illness.
The 38-year-old Harrison had a history of mental illness including schizophrenia and bipolar and had been, according to his mother, making “violent threats” on the day of his shooting.
Warning: Some viewers may find this video distressing
In the body-cam footage taken on June 14, 2014, the two Dallas police are filmed responding to a call by Harrison’s mother who had earlier asked police to take Harrison from their home in Oak Cliff Drive to the nearby Parkland Memorial Hospital.
Police had visited the Harrison house on several occasions in the past to help control Mr Harrison.
After knocking on the door, the two officers were greeted by Harrison’s mother who tells the two men her son is “bi-polar” and “schizo” as she leaves the property.
She is soon followed by her son who can be seen holding a screwdriver.
The two officers are heard asking Harrison to drop the screwdriver as he stands in the doorway.
Seconds later the officers shoot Harrison five times, leaving him fatally wounded.
The Dallas Police Department say that the officers only fired after Harrison disobeyed their requests to drop the screwdriver.
Later on in the video, one of the officers can be heard saying, “He was in the doorway. He had a screwdriver. We had this behind us and we had to shoot.”
The family say that the actions of the police were improper and have now filed a lawsuit for wrongful death against the two officers, claiming that the officer's violated Harrison’s civil rights by not acknowledging his mental illness.
Speaking at a press conference, Geoff Henley, the family’s lawyer said: “When you're dealing with somebody who is mentally ill, you're not supposed to agitate, you're not supposed to move fast, you're not supposed to inflame.”
He said non-lethal force, such as pepper-spray or a Taser could have been used instead.
Harrison’s older brother, David Harrison, supported Henley’s view, saying that the officers only “acknowledged the screwdriver and not his brother's mental illness" and escalated the situation from “zero to 100” in an extremely short period of time.
Chris Livingston, the attorney for both policemen, says the video shows that both officers had drawn and discharged their weapons in self-defence.
He said that Harrison had been using the screwdriver in a “stabbing motion” and that the two officers were “not going to wait to get stabbed before they shot.
Dallas police issued a statement saying its criminal investigation had been completed.
The case has been forwarded to the Dallas County District Attorney's office and is waiting to be heard by the Dallas Grand Jury.