By Asia Simone Burns, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga
A police officer’s body camera captured the moment she fired a shot that killed a man in southeast Atlanta on Monday — and the aftermath seconds later when she broke down in tears.
Atlanta police on Tuesday released more than three hours of footage from three officers present during the incident that killed 28-year-old Dearian Bell.
It is the most complete look at what happened the night of the shooting and a central piece of evidence in the GBI’s investigation into the incident. The state agency’s findings will ultimately be turned over to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office for review to determine if the shooting was justified. AJC.com has pored through the footage, which provides several angles of what happened and affirms the Atlanta Police Department’s initial account of events.
The situation began as a domestic disturbance at the Gladstone Apartments in the 500 block of Cassanova Street, GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles said in a news release. The three officers arrived at the location shortly before 7:30 p.m. and found Bell and his wife inside an SUV, she said.
In the body camera footage, two male officers and one female officer are seen approaching the SUV. Bell’s wife gets out of the vehicle and steps to the side.
“What’s going on?” one of the officers asks the woman.
The wife tells police she is trying to leave the apartment complex and Bell won’t get out of the SUV.
“Where are you trying to go?” Bell shouts from the passenger side of the car.
As the conversation continues, an officer notices that Bell has a gun in the car with him.
“Bro, what are you doing?” he asks in the video. “You’ve got your hand on a gun. What’s up?”
Bell then climbs into the driver’s seat and closes the door. The officers tell Bell to get out of the SUV, but he does not comply. The video shows all three officers crowding around the door, forcing it open and trying to pull Bell from the SUV.
“You’re pulling on me,” Bell can be heard saying. “You’re pulling on me. You’re Black and you’re pulling on me.”
The video next shows Bell sliding back into the passenger side.
One officer remains on the driver’s side of the SUV. Body camera footage from that officer’s perspective shows him speaking to Bell. He is heard multiple times telling Bell to get out of the car.
“I’m just trying to stop my wife from leaving,” Bell says. He can be heard telling the officer he has “a whole loaded pistol on me.”
Meanwhile, the other two officers walk to the passenger side of the SUV and try to get Bell out of the vehicle. One officer positions himself at the car door, while the other readies her Taser.
“Look what he’s grabbing for,” she instructs the other officer. That officer says Bell is reaching for the handle of the car door.
Seconds later, body camera footage from both angles show Bell reaching down. When his right hand comes back into the frame, it appears to be holding a gun.
At that point, the video shows the two officers on the passenger side pulling out their guns, pointing them at the SUV and backing away. The other officer continues to stand next to the SUV on the driver’s side.
The wife tells the officers that the gun is not loaded, but Bell claims that it is.
“We’re not fixing to play these (expletive) games with no guns,” the female officer says.
Bell tells the officer nearest to him that it’s a “crime of passion.”
“I’m going to Grady before that, or I’m going to get killed today,” Bell tells the officer standing at the driver’s side of the SUV. The wife walks to the passenger’s side of the vehicle and opens the door.
“You need to stop before you get killed,” she can be heard telling Bell.
In the video, Bell gets out of the SUV and takes off running down a sidewalk and behind a building. Moments later, an officer notes he has taken the gun with him.
Shortly after, Bell reemerges from between two buildings. In the video, he can be heard saying that he has “one in the clip.”
“Now you’re going to have to put me down,” he shouts to the officers.
Bell comes toward the officers carrying what appears to be a scooter in one hand and a gun in the other. The next eight minutes of the video show Bell and police locked in a heated confrontation as the officers repeatedly command him to drop the gun.
“Y’all not going to stop me,” he shouts multiple times.
Bell’s wife tells police the gun he is holding belongs to her. In the video, she says Bell has been drinking and reiterates that the gun is not loaded.
“I’m not fixing to play with this man talking about he got one in the (expletive) clip,” the female officer says.
All three officers can be heard telling Bell to drop the gun. In the video, he is seen walking toward the officers. He still appears to be holding the weapon.
“Don’t come no closer! Do not come any closer,” the female officer shouts. “Put the gun down! Put it down! Put it down!”
An officer is heard telling dispatch that the man is holding the gun to his head and saying he is going to kill himself. The officers continue trying to de-escalate the situation while Bell walks away and disappears behind two buildings.
“We’ve got to keep eyes on this one,” an officer says, and all three proceed to follow him to a parking lot.
When Bell is once again in view, the officers continue to tell him to drop the gun. In the video, Bell can be heard shouting various things.
“Where’s the gun, man?” an officer asks Bell. “Put it down!”
The female officer tells her colleague that if Bell gets in range she will deploy her stun gun on him.
“You think that Taser’s going to stop me,” Bell shouts. “That Taser is not going to stop me. I’m a whole gorilla.”
Bell once again appears to be walking toward the officers. This time, he appears to be holding the gun to his head with one hand and carrying a child’s bicycle with the other.
“Man, she’s not leaving,” Bell says, as he drops the bicycle. He is next seen picking up some sort of object. The officer tells her colleague that Bell still has a gun in his hand.
“Put it down,” she shouts repeatedly while standing behind a tree.
Bell picks up the bicycle once again and throws it in the general direction of the police officers.
“She’s not going no-(expletive)-where, and I’m telling you if she comes out here, she’s going to get pistol-whipped,” Bell says.
The female officer continues to tell Bell to put down the gun. Between verbal commands, she fires a gunshot.
The officer tells Bell to get on the ground with his hands up, and he complies. The other officers are seen approaching him and putting their guns away.
“You shot me, man,” Bell says. “I’m gushing.”
The officer who fired the gunshot can be heard speaking into her radio and calling for an ambulance. Seconds later, she begins sobbing.
At some point, an officer picks up a gun on the ground near Bell, but it is not clear if the weapon is loaded.
The male officers can be seen rendering aid to Bell, who appears to have been hit in the front of his body.
“Stay with us. Keep breathing, man,” an officer is heard telling the injured man. “Grady is almost here.”
Bell, still bleeding into the pine straw beneath him, can be heard rhythmically groaning as the officers apply pressure to his wound.
“That’s all right,” an officer says. “You’re making noises. Just stay with us.”
Bell did not survive.
The incident is the 73rd officer-involved shooting the GBI has been called to investigate this year.