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Family of suspect shot, killed by Mesa PD calls for transparency in recent incident

Posted at 2:09 PM, Sep 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-30 01:29:55-04

TEMPE, AZ — The family of 21-year-old Angel Benitez, an unarmed man shot and killed by Mesa police Friday, is pleading for transparency and justice.

The family and attorneys held a news briefing Monday calling for officers to release body camera footage and for all witnesses to the shooting to report what they saw.

“Please come forward,” said Ana Sandoval, Angel’s mother. “If God allowed you to see, it’s for a reason.”

Watch live video from the family's press briefing below:

Family of suspect killed by Mesa PD holding a news briefing

The family and attorney of Angel Benitez, a suspect who was killed by Mesa police in Tempe Friday are holding a news briefing. STORY:

Posted by ABC15 Arizona on Monday, September 28, 2020

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and the Tempe Police Department are currently handling the criminal investigation to determine whether the officers' actions were justified.

Tempe police said the initial investigation indicates that the Mesa officers responded to a parking lot of Panda Express on Dobson Road to make contact with a man who they believed to be in a stolen car midday Friday.

Officers said Angel was slumped over the steering wheel, and as officers attempted to contain the vehicle, he fled the scene in the vehicle.

Officials said they then attempted to make a traffic stop and Angel continued driving westbound on University Drive.

The vehicle was then located by the Mesa air crews and officers from the Mesa Street Crimes Unit in a covered parking space near Evergreen Road and University Drive in Tempe.

The car was backed in and officers say they were able to see Angel still inside of the vehicle.

Mesa police then gave Angel commands, saying that he was initially compliant with his hands in the air and obeying the officers’ instructions.

“Under the law, his hands are up,” said civil rights attorney Ben Taylor, who represents Angel’s family. “Two witnesses are saying that, and he has been shot and murdered. That’s wrong.”

One witness Friday spoke to ABC15 saying, “I was there for the whole thing, and the man had his hands up.“ She said when Mesa police approached the car with their shields, she could still see the man’s hands above the level of the shields.

Authorities, however, said Angel then dropped his hands out of their view, towards his waistband, and they perceived it as a threat and began firing at Angel who was still in the car.

Three of the officers involved fired lethal rounds and two others fired less-lethal rounds. Police later discovered there were no weapons in the car.

“He wasn’t an animal to be shot like that,” Sandoval said.

“They can’t be just hiding behind the badge, behind the law, and qualified immunity, and say we can just kill you and shoot you because we thought you had something,” Taylor said.

The officers said they performed life-saving measures and had him transported to a nearby hospital, where he died from his injures about an hour later.

“This is murdering,” said Sandoval. “You guys murdered my son.“

Following his death, officers said there was a delay in notification to his next of kin "due to there being very limited information about his identity or that of his emergency contacts."

Officials said a majority of the officers involved don't have body-worn cameras.

Only three of the officers on scene wore body cameras and the footage shows obstructed views, police said.

What was captured from the footage is audio of officers giving commands to Angel for about 15 seconds before multiple shots were fired, police said.

Mesa police said a neighbor who captured cellphone video of the scene did not obtain video footage of the shooting, but only audio.