TUCSON, Ariz. — An Arizona police officer is out of a job after he fatally shot a suspected shoplifter nine times from behind Monday night in an incident the mayor of Tucson has described as “unconscionable and indefensible.”
The deceased man, Richard Lee Richards, 61, was using a motorized wheelchair at the time, and had brandished a knife, police said.
Former Officer Ryan Remington, a four-year veteran of the Tucson Police Department, was fired Tuesday and is under criminal investigation.
Richards’ death was captured by body-worn cameras and security cameras at the Lowe’s Home Improvement store where the shooting took place.
“He did have a Taser, but in his mind, he couldn’t use it because he didn’t feel he had the proper spread to deploy it, with the wheelchair between him and Richards,” defense attorney Mike Storie said.
Tucson police Chief Chris Magnus released details of the shooting Tuesday during a brief news conference. He also released the footage of Richards’ last few minutes of life.
“What you’re about to see is disturbing,” Magnus warned reporters Tuesday.
Watch Tuesday’s news conference below, courtesy of News 4 in Tucson.
Remington was working a “special duty assignment” at Walmart, and at around 6 p.m. was alerted by an employee that Richards may have stolen a toolbox, Magnus said.
The employee caught up to Richards in the parking lot and asked to see his receipt for the item.
“Instead of providing the receipt, Mr. Richards brandished a knife and said, ‘Here’s your receipt,’” Magnus said.
Court records obtained by News 4 in Tucson show Richards has a lengthy criminal history, including a 2007 prison sentence for attempted murder and other crimes. State prison records show Richards was released in January 2018.
Security footage from outside Walmart shows Remington and the store employee slowly trailing Richards as he maneuvered his wheelchair between vehicles in the parking lot. As they make their way across the lot, Remington speaks with a dispatcher, telling her that Richards had just shoplifted and pulled a knife on him.
“He was confronted by loss prevention,” Remington says. “He pulled the knife on loss prevention while I was right there.”
The Walmart employee later told investigators that Richards said, “If you want me to put down the knife, you’re going to have to shoot me,” Magnus said.
The security footage shows Remington walking a step or two behind Richards’ chair as Richards made his way toward Lowe’s, located across the street from Walmart. There is no audio to the footage, but both men appear calm.
The Walmart footage ends, and the video picks up with bodycam footage as Officer Stephanie Taylor, who is wearing the camera, arrives to back Remington up as Richards attempts to drive his chair into Lowe’s. Remington can be seen with his gun drawn as Richards moves toward the door to the garden center.
The officer tells Taylor that Richards has a knife in his hand.
“Do not go into the store, sir,” Remington states.
Taylor is also heard telling Richards to stop.
“Stop. You need to stop,” she says.
Taylor’s last word is drowned out by gunfire as Remington fires eight bullets at the older man, pauses for a second, and fires a ninth bullet. Taylor had also drawn her weapon but did not fire it.
Richards’ body jerks slightly and he slowly falls forward in his seat as the bullets enter his back. Shell casings can be heard hitting the pavement.
“Bravo One Eight, shots fired,” Remington says into his radio as he stands a couple of feet from the mortally wounded Richards.
Richards’ body pitches forward off his chair, tumbling headfirst onto the concrete. Blood and what appear to be loose cigarettes and other belongings can be seen at the man’s motionless feet.
The bodycam footage ends as Taylor turns and hurries toward her patrol car to retrieve apparent medical supplies.
The final portion of the footage shows the shooting from just inside the garden center entrance to Lowe’s. A female employee sits on a stool just inside the fence, her arms casually crossed across her chest.
Richards’ chair is still several feet outside the open gate as the gunfire erupts, startling the employee. She takes cover as Remington continues firing.
The angle of the camera shows the knife and pack of cigarettes fall from Richards’ right hand as he goes limp.
As Taylor runs for her medical kit, Remington forcefully grabs Richards’ hands and cuffs them behind his back.
“Bravo 15, we have one gunshot victim,” he calls over the radio as a pool of blood spreads from beneath Richards’ body.
Though officers attempted first aid, Richards was pronounced dead.
Watch the video released by police below. Editor’s note: It contains graphic images of a fatal shooting.
Magnus said Tuesday that he was “deeply disturbed and troubled” by Remington’s actions.
“His use of deadly force in this incident is a clear violation of department policy and directly contradicts multiple aspects of our use of force training,” the chief said. “As a result, the department moved earlier today to terminate Officer Remington.”
Richards’ criminal history dated back to 1981, when he was imprisoned on burglary charges. He was accused of attempted murder, aggravated assault and resisting arrest in 1998.
Richards was most recently arrested in August 2019 in Nogales, where U.S. Border Patrol agents found him transporting illegal immigrants into the U.S. He was sentenced to 13 months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release, federal court records show.
The supervised release was later revoked after he failed to abide by the conditions.
In a memorandum submitted by the defense, Richards’ attorney argued that his client had “severe physical problems” that developed after he had hip surgery while incarcerated. The hip replacement did not heal properly, the lawyer wrote.
“The defendant’s ability to move is limited to a wheelchair, and the pain he suffers is excruciating,” the document stated.
A judge revoked his release in April and ordered him to serve five months, with credit for time served.
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