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5 Investigates: Video contradicts Pinal sheriff's statements

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ELOY, AZ (CBS5) -

Video of a police standoff contradicts the initial Pinal County Sheriff's Office description of the chain of events that led to the shooting death of a suspected car thief. The man had led police and sheriff's deputies on a chase through Casa Grande and Eloy for nearly an hour, before deputies immobilized the car he was driving.

A witness shot the video on a cell phone. It shows the final moments of the standoff, when deputies were ordering Manuel Longoria to surrender. The deputies had their weapons drawn and fired five bean bag rounds at the suspect, in addition to Taser rounds.

Longoria appeared to be moving his arms around, and did not appear to be cooperating with the deputies. Seconds later, the video shows Longoria turn his back on the deputies and raise both hands into the air, high over his head. One second later, a lone deputy fired two shots, killing Longoria.

A statement issued on the day of the shooting read:

"Officers and deputies attempted to use less lethal means to take him into custody including firing several bean bag rounds and Taser deployments. The suspect refused to obey the commands and suddenly reached back into the vehicle. A deputy felt the suspect was reaching for the gun he reportedly had, so he then fired two rounds."

The statement does not mention the fact that Longoria had his hands above his head when he was shot. Witnesses told CBS 5 Investigates they heard Longoria say he had a gun and would not be taken into custody alive. But after the shooting, investigators found no weapon.

"I believe even looking at it in those circumstances, if I was a patrol officer and I was forced in that same situation, I would likely have shot him before that deputy shot him," said Sheriff Paul Babeu, who spoke to CBS 5 Investigates via satellite from Washington, DC, where he was attending a conference.

Babeu said he had watched the video multiple times in the past 24 hours.

"This suspect sadly and regrettably when given every opportunity to surrender and to comply and obey our commands, decided not to," said Babeu.

But a former DPS and Scottsdale Police Officer Jess Torrez disagreed after viewing the video.

"You have multiple police officers on the scene and only one person makes the shot. That tells me that other officers at the scene did not feel there was justification to use deadly physical force," said Torrez.

Torrez said despite Longoria's behavior during the chase and initial part of the standoff, the only actions that were central to a decision to shoot, occurred right before the deputy opened fire.

"Officers are taught to look at the hands first and foremost. So if his hands are up in the air, he doesn't have anything in them. How do they justify using deadly force?" asked Torrez.

Manuel Longoria had several run-ins with police as well as arrests, all for misdemeanor or non-criminal actions. Family members told CBS 5 investigates they have no idea what caused him to lead police on the chase that day.

As of one week after the shooting, the officer who killed Longoria was cleared and back on duty.

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

 

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