SALT LAKE CITY — As police officers asked Riche Antonio Santiago to step out of the back seat of the vehicle he was in, what had been a peaceful interaction to that point suddenly escalated into chaos.
“Don’t. Don’t,” an officer yells at Santiago as he reaches for something in his backpack. “What do you got?”
Approximately a dozen shots, or pops that sound like shots, can then be heard on the officer’s body camera video as Santiago, 21, is seen pointing a gun at police. Santiago died at the scene.
On Friday, the Salt Lake Police Department released the dramatic body camera video from three officers who responded on Aug. 5, including the two officers who are now on paid leave for firing their weapons.
On that day, officers responded to the Park Place Apartments, 350 E. 700 South, after being called to investigate a 911 hangup, meaning someone had dialed 911 but hung up without saying anything after dispatchers answered. It was unclear Friday whether the 911 hangup and what happened next were connected.
- Salt Lake City police work at the scene of an officer-involved shooting outside the Park Place Apartments, 350 E. 700 South on Monday, Aug. 5, 2019. Kristin Murphy
- Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown works at the scene of an officer-involved shooting at the Park Place Apartments, 350 E. 700 South, on Monday, Aug. 5, 2019. Kristin Murphy
- Salt Lake City police work at the scene of an officer-involved shooting the Park Place Apartments, 350 E. 700 South, on Monday, Aug. 5, 2019. on Monday, Aug. 5, 2019. Kristin Murphy
Officers spotted a Nissan in the parking lot that was allegedly involved in a shooting in the same area about a month earlier. Police did not say Friday how the car might have been involved.
A total of five people and a dog were in the car. Santiago was in the back seat on the driver’s side. Sitting next to him was an approximately 8-year-old girl whom he called his niece in the videos. Another adult was sitting in the passenger side in the back seat. The driver and a woman were in the front.
The officer who approached the car initially questioned the driver because the “vehicle registration information did not show valid insurance for the vehicle,” according to Salt Lake Police Capt. Lance VanDongen.
But as the officer called for backup, he said on the his police radio that the car may have been involved in a previous call about shots being fired.
“Shots fired?” the confused driver asked.
The officer is heard explaining to the group that although the car may have been involved, he just wants to make sure no one in the vehicle was involved.
As the officer questions Santiago in the video, he tells him, “If you have no warrants, I’ll get you out of here as quick as I can.”
Santiago appears visibly nervous in the video. At one point, he tells the officer he wants to get out of the car to smoke, but the officer tells him: ”You’re detained. You’re in the vehicle, you’re going to stay right here. ... Let’s just keep the door shut.”
There then appears to be confusion about whether the door should stay open or shut as Santiago insists on closing it, according to the video.
“Please, sir, can I close the door?”
“Why?” the officer replies.
“Because you told me to. … I don’t know sir, I just really got anxiety, sir. I just got out of jail like two, three days ago, sir,” Santiago says.
Santiago then gives the officer his name and birthdate and the officer runs a background check on him. The officer discovered there was a warrant out for Santiago’s arrest.
When the officer returns to the car, he asks Santiago to step outside.
“Please don’t tell me I’m going back to jail, sir,” he says.
“Yep. You’re under arrest,” the officer replies in the video.
From there, the seemingly low-key interaction between Santiago and the officers takes a sudden turn when Santiago begins searching for something in his backpack, immediately alarming the two officers standing by the car.
Still frames of the body camera videos provided by police show a gun coming from the car and being pointed at the officers.
After the gunfire erupted, the others who were still in the car screamed — including the young girl whose loud cries are constant. The girl — who was sitting next to Santiago when he started reaching in his backpack — is believed to have crawled into the front seat at some point, and then exited the car from the front passenger side.
“Get her out of the car, get her out of the car!” an officer is heard yelling as others get the girl and her mother out.
As the other shocked passengers continue to scream and yell at officers, one officer is heard exclaiming, “He pulled a gun on us!”
Three bullet holes can be seen in the video in the back window. Santiago manages to exit the vehicle and roll on the ground. When the body camera video is run in slow motion, Santiago can be seen rolling when he hits the pavement, turning, and then pointing his gun at officers again while he is on the ground.
It was not known Friday whether Santiago fired any shots.
Sirens can be heard in the distance as backup officers raced to the scene. Eventually, Santiago is seen lying in the ground with his back to the officers and a gun still nearby.
“We can help you out but you gotta help me, man. Hands up and I can give you medical aid,” a second officer is heard yelling on video as he continues to plead with Santiago to show his hands. “He’s on the ground. He’s not moving right now.”
As Santiago continues to lie motionless on the pavement, two officers approach him with guns drawn as a third picks up the gun lying next to him. Police say a real weapon was recovered.
The gun that officers recovered appears in the body camera video to have been in a racked position when it is recovered, with the barrel of the gun exposed from the slide.
The young girl was not physically injured. The driver initially complained of being injured during the exchange. Salt Lake police detective Greg Wilking said the man was checked for a scratch near his ear by paramedics, but was not transported to a hospital.
Santiago had a history of running from police, according to court records. At one point in the video, he tells officers that’s the reason he was just in jail.
“Why did you run?” an officer asks.
“Because I’m stupid,” he replies.
Most recently, Santiago was arrested on July 28 when police attempted to stop him on a jaywalking violation and he ran, according to a Salt Lake County Jail report. Once he was stopped, officers found a baggie of methamphetamine on him, the report states. He was released early on the morning of July 29 due to overcrowding, jail records state.
On March 17, Santiago fled from police because he had a warrant out for his arrest, court records state. He was later charged with failing to stop at the command of an officer, a class A misdemeanor. But a warrant was again issued for his arrest on the day of the shooting after he failed to show up for a scheduled court hearing in that case, court records state.
The West Valley Police Department is conducting the independent investigation into the shooting. It will then submit its findings to the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office which will determine whether the shooting was legally justified.