Phoenix, AZ (KTVK) — The Flagstaff Police Department, fulfilling a media records request, released the body camera video that captures some of the last moments of Officer Tyler Stewart’s life on Tuesday.
Stewart was killed after Robert Smith, a domestic violence suspect, shot him multiple times on December 27, 2014.
In a phone interview with 3TV, Deputy Chief Walt Miller said Officer Stewart’s family was aware the video was being released. Miller also said the command staff allowed Stewart’s fellow officers to view the video in its entirety if they wanted to.
“We felt that it was the right thing to do to let our employees, our officers, view the video and hear firsthand from our investigators and command staff what happened before they saw it on the news,” Miller said.
3TV chose not to air the video in its entirety after a lengthy debate concerning whether or not the video on its own was newsworthy or if airing it would serve a purpose. Ultimately we decided it did, because it’s one thing to hear about how dangerous it is to be a police officer, and it’s another thing to see it firsthand.
The video shows Officer Stewart walking up to Robert Smith’s house and asking him to come outside. Smith agrees but returns to a room in the home before he walks outside.
Officer Stewart then asks, “Do you have any weapons in your pocket or anything like that?” To which Smith replies, “No, Sir, I’m just cold.”
The two then talk outside about the incident that brought Officer Stewart there to begin with, an allegation of a domestic violence incident that had occurred the day before.
“There was no indication that he was walking into a very dangerous situation. He simply needed to contact this suspect, get an interview, ask some very simple questions,” said Deputy Chief Miller.
Indeed. the conversation is mundane and goes on for about three minutes or so before things escalate in a matter of seconds.
“Mind if I just pat down your pockets real quick, you don’t have anything in here?” Officer Stewart asks. Smith replies, “No, no, no.”
It’s during that exchange that Smith pulls a gun out of his coat pocket and shoots Stewart.
“If I was in that situation, I don’t know that I would have acted any different,” said Darin Fredrickson. Fredrickson is retired law enforcement. 3TV showed him the video in its entirety.
“It just goes to show how fast a normal situation can turn absolutely deadly,” Fredrickson said.
Smith had his hands in his coat pockets while talking to Officer Stewart. 3TV asked Fredrickson about that and whether Officer Stewart should have patted him down when he first asked him about weapons.
“I don’t think the situation would have changed if he would have said, do you have a weapon, then patted him, it just would have happened quicker,” he said.
The Flagstaff Police Department said they will continue to review the video.
“We will look at the video more closely and have future conversations among the command staff on how to move forward and possibly take some training cues away from this. What that is specifically I don’t know at this point,” said Deputy Chief Miller.
Fredrickson said the bigger takeaway from this video might be for civilians.
“If anything can be learned from viewing this video it would be that any situation an officer enters could potentially be a violent situation,” he said.
The one thing the video does not clear up is what caused Smith to snap and open fire on Stewart. That’s something Flagstaff Police say we will probably never know.
Shortly after shooting Stewart, Smith, 28, took his own life.
Officer Stewart was 24-years-old. He had been on the department for less than a year.
By Amanda Goodman