- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 15, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) - District of Columbia officials publicly released footage from a police body camera Tuesday and asked for the public’s help in learning more about the death of a special education teacher taken into custody by security guards at a Washington apartment building.

They said it’s the first time the city has made such a release since it began putting body cameras on police.

The approximately 9-minute-long video mostly shows the responding police officers performing chest compressions and trying to revive 27-year-old Alonzo Smith, whose Nov. 1 death has been ruled a homicide. City officials have previously said that by the time officers arrived, Smith had been handcuffed by private security guards and was not breathing. The medical examiner has ruled that the cause of Smith’s death was a heart attack complicated by “acute cocaine toxicity” and compression of his torso.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon that the video does not explain what happened in the case.

“The body worn camera gives us a snapshot, a look. It does not explain, certainly, the whole story in this case. This video picks up after Mr. Smith has been detained and restrained. The video does not show how Mr. Smith died nor does it confirm whether or not the use of force was justified or reasonable,” said Bowser, who called for anyone who witnessed the incident to come forward.

The city began testing police-worn body cameras earlier this year, and the mayor said that 2,800 officers will soon be equipped with the technology. That covers officers that make the first contact with the public, said Police Chief Cathy Lanier, who said the rollout should be finished by the end of 2016.

Bowser decided to release the footage because she “determined that it is of significant public interest,” the city said in a written statement. Bowser later said that in future situations like this one, where a case is under review or being investigated, city officials would weigh the value of releasing video against other concerns and make a determination.

Lanier said that in this case, officers were called to the scene for a report of a person yelling around 4 a.m. and that when two officers arrived they were told that Smith, who was handcuffed, was believed to be high on PCP. In the video, Smith is shirtless and lying on the ground.

“Clearly there was a pretty good struggle … the security guard is winded, out of breath,” Lanier said.

One police officer goes and gets additional restraints to put on Smith, but those are quickly taken off as CPR is performed, she said.

The tape shows officers pumping Smith’s chest, and there are shouts of: “Come on, man!” ”Come on, buddy!” ”Come on, wake up!”

The footage released Tuesday does not include any identifying information, and Smith’s face as well as the faces of others are blocked by black dots.

City officials said they plan to release video from a second police officer’s body camera, but they noted that the footage largely shows the same angle on the scene, Lanier said.

An attorney for Smith’s mother, Karen Silver, said Tuesday evening that she had seen the footage but that it wasn’t particularly revealing because it showed officers arriving after the incident is already over.

“Basically he’s dead already,” Silver said.

Silver said there may be additional important footage from the scene. She said she was told a security camera from in front of the building was working, but she has not seen any footage from it.


Follow Jessica Gresko on Twitter at twitter.com/jessicagresko. Her work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/jessica-gresko

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