2 June 2022
Raleigh, N.C. — Body-worn cam and security camera footage released by the Raleigh Police Department on Thursday could provide more insight and transparency in a lethal police shooting in May, in which officers fired 30 rounds at a man they say targeted officer vehicles with Molotov cocktails.
According to reports from police, Reuel Rodriguez-Nunez, 37, drove a silver van into the parking lot of the Raleigh Police Southeast District Station on Rock Quarry Road – not far from Southeast Raleigh High School. He got out of his van and began throwing what appeared to be fecal matter and urine towards the police station, before switching over to throwing incendiary weapons, commonly known as Molotov cocktails. He set two police vehicles on fire, police said.
Multiple videos released by Raleigh police show the May 7 incident from several perspectives.
EDITOR’S NOTE/CONTENT WARNING: Video provided by Raleigh Police Department of the shooting of Reuel Rodriguez-Nunez is graphic and includes gunfire. It shows Rodriguez-Nunez being shot. Profanity is also used in the video.
Some of the body camera footage, particularly from body camera 3, has called into question police tactics. Moments before the police began shooting, an approaching officer ran towards Rodriguez-Nunez, drawing his gun and shouting, “Go ahead. Go ahead, mother (explicative). Do it. Do it. Do it. Go (explicative) ahead. Go right (explicative) ahead. Go ahead mother (explicative). Do it. Do it … Give me the go ahead.”
Rodriguez-Nunez then throws a Molotov cocktail in the direction of the shouting officer, video shows. Immediately, the officers began shooting at him.
There do appear to be some attempts at de-escalation several minutes earlier, before the arrival of the officer wearing body camera 3.
Body camera 1 shows the perspective of a police officer approaching the scene, where smoke can be seen across the parking lot that appears to be coming from a police vehicle that had already taken damage.
“Don’t do anymore!” shouts the officer. “Don’t do it! Don’t do it, bro!”
The officer begins to back away, and tells the officer driving a police vehicle beside him to “Back it up” as they move away from Rodriguez-Nunez. Soon after, flaming projectiles can be seen landing very close to the police vehicle with at least one driver inside.
An officer can be seen approaching Rodriguez-Nunez, while still keeping distance and asking, “What’s going on? What do you want?”
Suddenly, the officers begin backing up rapidly, as Rodriguez-Nunez approaches them, throwing at least two Molotov cocktails their direction. One lands near the police vehicle near the officers, and you can hear the officer with the body cam shout, “Don’t do it, mother (explicative)! I’m done with you!”
Four police officers can be seen closing in around Rodriguez-Nunez, ordering him to take his hand out of his pocket. A panoramic view of the scene shows four officers approaching him with guns drawn.
Rodriguez-Nunez throws what appears to be three Molotov cocktails towards the officer wearing body cam 3, which is within moments of when the footage on body cam 3 shows that officer’s questionable action. At this point, the police begin shooting at Rodriguez-Nunez. He then falls to the ground, as officers shout, “Put your hands up!”
Officers rush in, rolling Rodriguez-Nunez over and handcuffing him. A knife can be seen laying beside him.
Nearby, a police vehicle is rapidly catching fire, and an officer says, “We need to get away from this car.” They lift Rodriguez-Nunez, who seems limp, and carry him away from the burning car before laying him in the grass and searching him for any more weapons.
“Suspect is in custody! EMS come in!” says an officer.
“Start CPR” says one officer as another says, “Search him, search him!”
Each of the released videos end at this point. It is unclear exactly when Rodriguez-Nunez died from his injuries.
WRAL News asked Raleigh police whether there were concerns about the tactics used.
“Pursuant to departmental policy, the actions of the officers are part of the internal investigation being conducted by the Office of Professional Standards,” Lt. Jason Borneo wrote in an email to WRAL News.
In response to questions about their tactics, Raleigh police say the actions of the officers are part of an ongoing internal investigation.
WRAL News also asked Raleigh police why it took so long for officers to arrive. Video footage shows that it appears it took more than 16 minutes for the first officer to address Rodriguez-Nunez after he arrived in the parking lot.
“Officers are in the field answering calls for service and may respond to emergencies through 911 calls or by observing an incident that dictates a response,” Borneo wrote. “As indicated in the May 13 five-day report, the initial officer arrived at the station and immediately requested assistance from additional officers.”
Dean Crisp, a former police chief of 20 years, says looking at the video, it appears Nunez “came prepared to do a lot of carnage.”
“In that instance, you have to realize there’s a lot going on. You have an individual who is actively throwing Molotov cocktails that are igniting. They’re not fake. They’re real, and so, the officers are trying to contain the issue there,” said Crisp.
“It’s very difficult to approach somebody with a Molotov cocktail … you can get burnt alive within seconds and to me, they’re de-escalating verbally and keeping their distance,” he said.
Crisp said he think the manner in which the one officer yelling ‘Do it,’ responded will be handled internally.
“It’s a very delicate and a very tough situation, even though those officers were making all these decisions within seconds,” he said.
One of Nunez’ family members previously told WRAL News he struggled with mental health.
Raleigh police say they requested the release of all the footage in order to be fully transparent with the public about exactly how everything happened.
The four officers involved are on administrative leave while the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation investigates, Borneo said.