Bellingham police say they released the graphic images in an effort to be transparent, which prompted the department last year to equip all patrol officers with body cameras.
Last year, Bellingham police equipped all their uniformed officers with body cameras, one of the few departments in the state to thus far do so.
Police Chief Cliff Cook said at the time the images recorded by the tiny cameras could help resolve questions about the actions of officers and suspects.
Last weekend, an officer’s body camera captured the deadly shooting of a knife-wielding assault suspect. On Thursday, police released graphic video footage of the shooting.
“We are transparent,” Lt. Danette Beckley, public information officer for the department, said Friday. “We want our community to have the information.”
At about 4:20 p.m. Sunday, Manuel Gonzalez, 28, had stabbed a 20-year-old man in the neckin the 100 block of East Holly Street, police said. He fled on foot, pursued by witnesses.
In the 1400 block of Railroad Avenue, near the downtown bus station, Gonzalez, dragging a garbage bag stuffed with belongings, engages in a second fight with several young men.
Responding to a 911 call, Bellingham police Officer Jeremiah Leland arrives on the scene. He exits his SUV, handgun drawn, and orders Gonzalez to drop his knife.
Gonzalez can be seen on the video gesticulating and advancing toward Leland, who backs up and yells, “Don’t step any closer,” warning he would open fire. Leland also ordered Gonzalez to “Drop the knife!”
Gonzalez keeps moving forward. In the cellphone video taken by a witness, he can be heard saying, “Shoot me!”
Leland fires four shots, dropping Gonzalez to the ground.
Officers continue to cover him with their handguns and yell at him to spread his arms out.
“Put your hands out like an airplane so that we can get up there and help you,” one officer says.
With Gonzalez lying face down and unresponsive, an officer moves in and pulls his arms out to the side and cuffs his hands behind his back. He was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.
“Although this is a tragic incident for our community and everyone involved, we are grateful that Officer Leland was not injured during the attack,” Chief Cook said in a statement. “While we are still trying to locate Mr. Gonzalez’ next of kin, we will extend our condolences to his family.”
Gonzalez had a criminal history, including a felony assault arrest for threatening a police officer with a knife after being confronted for shoplifting last March, according to Bellingham police. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine months in jail.
In November, he was arrested after allegedly kicking an elderly man in the face while exiting a bus.
Leland has been an officer for the Bellingham Police Department for three years. He has been placed on paid administrative leave as the shooting is investigated by the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office.
Several Washington police departments, including those at Bainbridge Island and Airway Heights, Spokane County, have also equipped officers with body cameras. In Spokane, more than 200 police officers now use the cameras after a smaller group tested them in a pilot project, according to a city spokesman.
Seattle police also plan to soon begin using body cameras. The department already has become a national leader in the quick release of patrol-car video after police shootings.
“Video recordings of police actions can be very important tools to help understand who did what to whom, and under what conditions,” Geoffrey Alpert, a professor in the criminology and criminal-justice department at the University of South Carolina, told The Seattle Times last year.