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November 20, 2018

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Metro laments bystander’s use of Facebook Live during police incident

Image

Courtesy of Metro Police Department

A photo showing the position of Roosevelt Brown is displayed during a news conference at the Metro Police headquarters Tuesday, Aug. 28. Police discussed Saturday’s officer-involved shooting of Brown on Doolittle Avenue.

Metro Briefing on Doolittle OIS

A photo of Roosevelt Brown is displayed during a news conference at the Metro Police headquarters Tuesday, Aug. 28. Police discussed Saturday's officer-involved shooting of Brown on Doolittle Avenue. Launch slideshow »

When a witness took to Facebook Live to stream the lead-up to the imminent death of an armed 18-year-old suspect at the hands of a Metro Police SWAT sniper, it “only served to inflame an already intense situation,” Clark County Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank said.

“Obviously, we cannot stop someone from doing this. But we ask the community to think about what is more important: displaying an intense situation on social media or being socially responsible?” Hank said Tuesday afternoon.

For roughly 70 minutes Saturday morning, the Facebook user stood a few yards from officers as they dealt with an erratic and taunt-flinging Roosevelt Brown, who’d been accused of firing a gun at a family member’s apartment.

The man on the other side of the cellphone enthusiastically and later reflectively narrated the turbulent scene unfolding outside his apartment. Several times, police pleaded with him to go back inside.

He ignored them.

Meanwhile, the video was available to the public, which streamed it live on their screens. By that evening, it had amassed about 40,000 live and replay views and 2,200 comments.

Many of the online comments were similar to those from witnesses in the neighborhood near Lake Mead Boulevard and H Street: There was humor, genuine worry and police tactics discussions.

But none of that was positive for Metro, Hank said. “Someone is potentially placing themselves in jeopardy just to display something on social media.”

It’s concerning because it can exacerbate a situation, he added. After all, an armed Brown appeared maniacal as he paced around the neighborhood, checking several doors along the way.

The Facebook video, which did not capture the shooting, was no longer available Tuesday afternoon. But Hank broadcast footage from an officer’s body-worn camera.

Officers responded shortly before 5 a.m. Saturday to an apartment in the 900 block of Doolittle Avenue. People there told them that one of their family members, Brown, had gone to the unit, fired a round at someone inside, missing, and then shot a second bullet from the outside, Hank said.

Brown, who wore a court-ordered monitor around his ankle, was not on house arrest but was prohibited from being near one of the people inside the apartment, Hank said. Earlier this year, he’d been arrested in cases of domestic violence, property destruction and burglary.

Arriving officers spotted him running away but lost him, Hank said. A perimeter was set up and he emerged from a dumpster in the neighborhood about an hour later.

Shortly after, the Facebook user captured the next 70 or so minutes of the standoff. Brown kneeled with a gun pointed on his head, paced around, sat down, and got on top of a car as he yelled at the officers who desperately pleaded with him to surrender.

Throughout the ordeal, the officers demonstrated “great patience and restraint,” said Hank, who broadcast another view from the standoff obtained from a police body-worn camera.

This was apparently captured after Brown and the officers moved on from the view of the Facebook user.

Brown walked on the street and sidewalk while a few patrol officers, one of them holding a shield in front of them, followed.

“Get down on the ground, and give up!” police said. “Get down on the ground and put the gun down!”

“Bro,” Brown said to police. “What, do you want me to react?”

“No,” a cop shouted back, “I want you to give up so that you and everyone else in here can be safe.”

A short clip Hank broadcast showed Brown raising his right arm, aiming the gun at officers in front of him.

That’s when SWAT Officer Jonathan Collingwood pulls on the trigger of a sniper rifle, shooting the single muffled crack from a .223 that brought Brown down.

Investigators later learned that Brown’s gun was not loaded, Hank said.

Brown, who became the eighth armed suspect shot by Metro Police in August, died a short time later at University Medical Center.

“Officers have increasingly been met by armed suspects who aren’t afraid to use violence,” Hank said before the briefing on Saturday’s shooting.

While police have tried to de-escalate and have peaceful outcomes, “sometimes the end result is dictated by the suspect. I wish I had a different answer for what we’re seeing in our community, but I don’t.”