The San Diego Police Department on Monday released body-worn camera video that shows an officer shooting at a man the officer incorrectly thought was armed with a gun during an incident earlier this month in the Bay Terraces neighborhood.
The shooting happened July 7, when the officer saw the 43-year-old man reach into his waistband and pull out an object, police said. Video footage shows the man, who police identified as Maurice Littlejohn, raising his arms to shoulder height in front of his body as he turns toward Officer Trevor Gallagher.
The video does not clearly show what, if anything, was in the man’s hands. Police learned later that he had a cellphone in his possession, not a gun.
Gallagher fired twice, according to police and the footage, but no one was hit. Officials said Gallagher has been with the Police Department for 2 1/2 years.
Earlier that day, officers responded to a report of a sexual assault at the Meadowbrook Apartments on South Meadowbrook Drive about 7:30 p.m. According to audio of a 911 call released by the department, the caller told a dispatcher that a neighbor was under the influence of drugs, entered the caller’s home and tried to have sex with the caller.
A police helicopter crew directed officers to the suspect, later identified as Littlejohn. The body-worn camera video, as well as helicopter footage, shows a man police said was Littlejohn holding a cane in a parking lot at the apartment complex as two officers arrive.
One officer, who is holding a Taser, tells the man repeatedly to drop the cane. He eventually complies.
When the officer tells the man to turn around, he refuses. And when the officer tells the man he’s being detained, he walks backwards, away from the officers.
The officers then walk toward the man, who pulls out a knife.
“Oh, he’s got a knife. He’s got a knife,” the officer with the Taser says. He tells the other officer to keep out his handgun.
“Shoot me,” the man tells the officers. “Shoot me.”
The officer then fires the Taser.
The man falls backwards onto the ground and drops the knife, which police later described as a pocket knife. In the video the man can be seen pulling the Taser barbs from his upper body, then getting up and backing away from officers again.
He then runs along a walkway through the apartment complex, and the two officers give chase. Gallagher tells the man to “stop” and “stop reaching.” When the man turns for a split second, Gallagher fires two rounds. That’s when the officer thought the man had pulled out a handgun, according to police.
The man keeps running.
Moments later, he stops and turns around again. He raises an object in his hands, then throws it on the ground.
“It’s a (expletive) cellphone,” an officer can be heard saying.
The man then walks across traffic lanes on Meadowbrook Drive. At the intersection with Brookhaven Road, he turns around to face the officers and walks backwards. Gallagher tells him to get on the ground and fires a Taser. The man throws something at the officers and throws a punch — but misses — when one of them gets close.
Three officers eventually take him to the ground, and a tussle ensues.
Police said the man held his arms under his body and resisted when officers tried to handcuff him, and that officers used to force to get ahold of his arms.
Body-worn camera video shows an officer punching the man’s face and kneeing the left side of his upper body. It took officers about two minutes to handcuff him.
He was taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries and booked into jail later, police said.
Littlejohn has pleaded not guilty in San Diego Superior Court to charges including burglary, sexual battery and resisting an officer. He remains in custody on a no-bail status.
In a separate case, Littlejohn was charged with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon in connection with a July 1 incident, according to court records. He has pleaded not guilty. Further information about that case was not immediately available Monday.
The county Sheriff’s Department is investigating the San Diego police shooting, as per a new protocol that local law enforcement agencies agreed to in order to no longer investigate their own shootings or in-custody deaths. The county District Attorney’s Office will then review the case to determine whether the shooting was justified.