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Controversial July 4th shooting sparks change at Phoenix's Police Department

Posted at 5:09 PM, Jul 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-10 00:16:42-04

PHOENIX — After the controversial July 4 shooting of James Garcia, Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams says she will speed up the release of police video for all officer-involved shootings.

Williams said she personally watched the body-worn camera video of the shooting, which ended in the death of Garcia, 28, who was sitting in his car in a friend's driveway.

By July 17, Williams said the department will release both unedited police body-worn camera video and an edited "critical incident briefing" which also includes police descriptions of what they say occurred. Williams said the department will release videos of future officer-involved shootings in the same 14-day timeframe. This is faster than the 45-day timeframe that Williams had wanted the department to meet since last October.

"In the spirit of understanding that the world is operating at warp speed and light speed, at the same time trying to quell misinformation, it is our commitment to get in that 14-day window and release the information," Williams said.

Watch ABC15's full exclusive interview with Chief Williams in the player above

One witness recorded a video showing the moments leading up to the shooting, and others on the scene claimed Garcia was unarmed. Phoenix police say Garcia did point a gun at officers, and the department released a short video showing one officer pulling a gun from the car to counter the witness reports.

Williams said she has already met with FBI investigators who have agreed to review whether there were any civil rights violations during officers' interaction with Garcia.

"There’s been tremendous angst involved in this scenario," Williams said. As the chief promises police transparency and accountability, getting the FBI involved in the Garcia case "puts my money where my mouth is, taking the responsibility of calling in another entity to review the case."

Williams said she will also release the names of the officers involved in the shooting, likely today or tomorrow. She dismissed claims that the Phoenix Police Department does not promptly release the names of officers involved in this type of case.

In an interview Thursday, ABC15 also asked Williams about community distrust of her officers. In the last few years, body-worn cameras and witness videos have shown when her officers fail to render medical aid to people they've shot, screamed obscenities and threatened violence against suspects, and hit or kicked people even after they were detained.

"It is a problem every time we have that information out there, every time we have that kind of interaction," Williams said. "I am really working on training our officers, making sure they are the consummate professionals, no matter what the scenario and no matter what the situation is."

Williams concluded that her officers have more than a million contacts with the public every year, and she wants to gain community trust with every interaction.