ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – The St. Paul Police Department has released body camera footage from the Aug. 5 fatal officer-involved shooting in St. Paul.
Police were dispatched at about 2:30 a.m. on a report that someone was shooting a gun inside a triplex in the Rondo neighborhood. Officers encountered a man with a gun on the 900 block of St. Anthony Avenue, and the man was shot and killed.
The officers involved in the shooting were identified as Vincent Adams and Matthew Jones. The man killed was identified as William Hughes.
“It’s absolutely heart-wrenching for everyone involved,” Chief Todd Axtell said.
The body camera footage shows officers approaching the house and entering an enclosed porch. Officer Adams knocks on an interior door in the front porch. A man can be heard in the footage saying, “I will kill you.”
Hughes opens the interior door a few seconds later and raises a gun in a sweeping fashion over the officers. Officer Adams yells at Hughes to “Put your hands up!” Hughes puts his hands up, with handgun in his right hand. Hughes is shot multiple times, and an officer said “God d****t. Shots fired.”
Adams and Jones are on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure in an officer-involved shooting.
WCCO-TV watched the videos with Joe Dutton, a use-of-force expert and veteran police officer. He said the shooting is justified, and notes both officers fired their guns at the same time.
“He [Hughes] moves the gun from being at his side upward and when he starts moving the gun, that’s when the officers, both simultaneously, both shooting at the same time … at Mr. Hughes,” Dutton said.
Axtell said he watched the video with Hughes’s family before making it public.
“The family shared some stories with me and allowed me to share some of this today, that he was a good man and he was in pain,” Axtell said.
Hughes’s sister, Libby, gave Axtell two cards for each one of the officers involved.
“This is the first time in my 30-year career that I have seen such grace by a family that has been met with such a tragedy,” Axtell said.
Two days after the shooting, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter made his first public comments about the incident and called for timely release of the officers’ body camera footage. Carter said the footage should be released once the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension completes all key interviews, and Hughes’ relatives had a chance to watch the video.
The St. Paul Police Federation said they did not want this video released before the investigation is complete. President Dave Titus issued this statement Friday after the body camera footage was released:
We believe our officers involved acted heroically and are proud of them. This video is some of the evidence that demonstrates their professionalism and dedication to protecting innocent lives in our community. However, we also believe the department should not have released this video outside of the context of a complete and thorough investigation. The officers, family, and society deserve the complete story and not a piecemeal release of evidence.
Axtell did not say if he felt the shooting was justified, but said it is a decision for Ramsey County Attorney John Choi to make.
Mayor Carter issued the following statement after the release of the video:
The body camera footage of Billy Hughes’ death is heartbreaking. I extend my sincere condolences to the Hughes family, to every grieving member of our community, and to Officers Adams and Jones, who were called last week to respond to a situation no officer would ever hope to encounter.
A fatal officer-involved shooting is one of the toughest challenges a city can face. I commend the Hughes family for their grace in the face of crisis. I commend Chief Axtell and the Saint Paul Police Department for setting a new bar for transparency by releasing this footage today, and I commend the BCA for their swift and thorough approach to guiding us toward justice through their ongoing investigation.
All of Saint Paul is united today in mourning Billy Hughes, and in wishing this terrible incident had never happened. As we process the range of emotions his death evokes, I remain committed to building community, and to ensuring our officers are equipped with the tools, resources, and trust they need to help us keep our neighborhoods safe.