The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Protest erupts in Phoenix after viral video shows police fatally shooting man in parked car

Phoenix police officers surround a car on Saturday in the neighborhood of Maryvale. (Phoenix City Councilman Carlos Garcia/Facebook)

As four Phoenix police officers surrounded a sedan parked in the driveway of a one-story house on Saturday, at least two of the officers had their guns drawn and pointed at the car.

“Hey, stop f------ moving. I will f------ shoot you,” one officer standing near the driver’s window yelled at the car’s lone occupant. Bystanders watching the tense scene unfold from across the street repeatedly shouted, “Don’t shoot him!”

Seconds later, a cracking sound could be heard, followed by a sharp exclamation. There was a brief silence. Then, deafening bangs — roughly 10 — rang out in quick succession.

Bystander video of the fatal shooting went viral over the weekend, prompting protesters to march for hours through the streets of Phoenix on Sunday night, outraged by another deadly incident amid nationwide demonstrations against police brutality. The protesters called for the release of the officers’ body-cam footage, with at least one city council member also publicly criticizing the Phoenix Police Department’s handling of the incident, the Arizona Republic reported.

Author Alex S. Vitale, who wrote “The End of Policing,” predicts that the movements to defund the police will “only get stronger.” He tells The Post why. (Video: The Washington Post)

Activists and Phoenix City Councilmember Carlos Garcia identified the man who was killed as James Porter Garcia, 28, which police confirmed on Monday. The officers involved in the shooting have not been identified.

“It does not shock us that despite all the scrutiny from community Phoenix PD continues to respond violently to calls. But, we must all continue to ask for transparency and accountability,” Garcia, the council member, wrote in a Facebook post Sunday that included the video. “We cannot allow for dishonest narratives to be built by violent departments. We will continue to call for independent investigations into officer involved shootings.”

In a statement, the department said officers responded to a 911 call shortly before 1 p.m. Saturday from a caller who said a man recently tried to kill him and that the person had come back with a knife. The caller reported that the man was “threatening to harm him again,” according to police.

Officers arrived in Maryvale, a neighborhood just northwest of Phoenix’s downtown area, where the victim “pointed out a specific home” and alleged the suspect was there, the department said. When the officers got closer to the residence, they noticed a man sitting in a car parked in the driveway. Authorities said the officers then started talking to the man, explaining they were investigating the alleged assault.

But the situation appeared to take a turn when they told the man to get out of the car.

“At this point, he refused, instead rolling up his window and arming himself with a handgun,” the department said, alleging that the man ignored commands from officers to put down the gun and started to lift the weapon.

After one of the officers “saw the gun pointed at a fellow officer,” the confrontation swiftly escalated, police said. An officer broke the passenger window in an attempt to distract the man while two others fired into the car.

The man was later transported to the hospital and pronounced dead. Authorities noted no other civilians or officers were injured. It remains unclear whether the man in the car was the suspect identified by the person who called 911.

The bystander video of the shooting, which was taken from a distance, did not capture the man’s actions, though a number of people have insisted he was sleeping or unarmed.

“They put the gun on his head like this and they’re still telling him not to move, to get his hand off a gun he don’t have, and then they shot him again,” Steven Merry, who said he was a friend of the man and reportedly has video of the incident, told KSAZ. “They made sure he was dead.”

Sgt. Mercedes Fortune, a Phoenix police spokeswoman, disputed claims that have circulated on social media that the man had been asleep in his car and was unarmed at the time of the shooting.

“The suspect was not asleep in the vehicle, he armed himself which is what lead to the officer involved shooting,” Fortune told the Republic in an email Sunday.

As of Monday night, the Phoenix Police Department had not released body camera video from officers who fired their guns. Doing so before “interviews are completed would compromise the investigation,” Fortune said in a statement.

The police department provided a 44-second clip of body camera video, in which Garcia’s face and body are blurred out, from an officer who arrived on the scene after the police shot the man. That footage shows the officer running to the scene, donning gloves and retrieving a handgun from the car through its shattered window.

In a video shared on social media, onlookers expressed their fury toward the officers in the aftermath of the deadly incident, screaming expletives at them and decrying the use of force.

The unrest carried into Sunday evening as about 30 protesters gathered at a park in Phoenix before beginning to march toward a nearby police precinct, the Republic reported. Along the way, the group swelled to roughly 50, according to the newspaper.

“We are going to be out here until we get what’s right for James Garcia!” one protester shouted.

Ben Guarino contributed to this report, which has been updated.