WINSLOW, Ariz. (AP) — A Navajo woman who was fatally shot by an Arizona police officer earlier this year had medical scissors in her hand as she approached the lawman, body camera video shows.
The videotape released Wednesday by the city of Winslow came days after the Maricopa County Attorney's Office said Officer Austin Shipley was justified in shooting Loreal Tsingine because he felt his life and that of another officer were threatened. Shipley was responding to a report of shoplifting in March when he fired at the 27-year-old woman.
The encounter between Shipley and Tsingine is brief, lasting less than 30 seconds. In the video, Shipley tries to restrain Tsingine, but she breaks free and falls to the ground. She gets up and walks quickly toward Shipley with the scissors in her right hand, pointed down.
Another officer, Sgt. Ernest Cano, arrived just before the shooting, walking slightly behind but to the side of Tsingine. He darts to his right with the sound of gunshots.
It's unclear what is said between Tsingine and Shipley because the video is silent in the moments leading up to and just after the shooting. City attorney Ellen Van Riper said there is a 30-second delay for audio after the body camera starts recording video.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety wrote in an executive summary of its investigation that Tsingine refused commands to stop resisting, get on the ground and drop the scissors. The agency said those commands were corroborated by witness testimony.
Prosecutors said they found no evidence of criminal conduct by Shipley.
The shooting of the Navajo woman led tribal officials to urge the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the treatment of American Indians in towns that border the Navajo Nation. A Justice Department spokesman did not immediately say Wednesday whether the office planned to do so.
A small group of people protested the decision to clear Shipley on Monday in Phoenix, and another demonstration is scheduled for Friday in Winslow. The Arizona protests come amid a wave of demonstrations and racial tensions throughout the U.S. over fatal police shootings of black men as well as deadly attacks on law enforcement officers.
Winslow resident Carl Wilson shook his head as he watched the video Wednesday, saying the shooting was excessive and questioned whether Shipley could have used a Taser or pepper spray instead.
"He should have went with another option — his Taser gun, not the handgun," he said. "That's just wrong."
Shipley can be heard breathing heavily as he keeps his gun aimed at Tsingine's body on the sidewalk a few blocks from the convenience store where she was accused of shoplifting.
Shipley asks Cano whether he has anything to help blood clot more quickly or other medical supplies, but Cano says no. Neither policeman approaches Tsingine. Medics arrive about two minutes after the shooting.
Ray Long, who was visiting Winslow on Wednesday and was aware of the shooting, said Tsingine should have obeyed Shipley's commands to get on the ground but wondered whether she was in an altered state of mind. Authorities found a prescription of Tsingine's for anti-psychotic medicine near her body, but officials haven't said whether she was under the influence of anything at the time.
Long also said Shipley appeared too harsh and fired shots too quickly, seemingly in disregard for both Tsingine and Cano. Long thought a Taser would have been more appropriate. The city did not immediately respond to an email asking if Shipley was carrying a Taser or pepper spray.
The entire investigative report from the Arizona Department of Public Safety is expected to be released by the city of Winslow next week.
Documents previously released by the city under public records requests show that at least two officers who trained Shipley had serious concerns about his work and that one recommended the police department not keep him on the force. The concerns included that he was too quick to go for his service weapon, ignored directives from superiors and falsified reports.
Court records showed Tsingine had been arrested multiple times, including last year when she grabbed at an officer's gun as he tried to arrest her in Sanders, Arizona.
Her family has filed a $10.5 million notice of claim against the city, saying Shipley violated her civil rights and Winslow was negligent in "hiring, training, retaining, controlling and supervising" the police officer.
The wrongful-death claim, filed July 1, is a precursor to a lawsuit and seeks $2 million for Tsingine's husband and $8.5 million for her 8-year-old daughter.
Shipley remains on paid administrative leave while the Mesa Police Department conducts an internal affairs investigation.