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Video shows moments just before Littleton officer fatally shoots man

Footage captures when an officer fatally shot Stephen Poolson, yet crucial moments are obscured by the officer’s clothing and video quality is a challenge.

LITTLETON, Colo. — The sister of 41-year-old Stephen Poolson, who was fatally shot by a Littleton police officer this month, said video raises more questions about what happened and why it took officers nearly five minutes to begin first aid. 

Poolson's sister, Shannon Wicker, released the video of the shooting to 9NEWS.

The shooting happened Feb. 2 at an apartment complex near South Bannock Street and West Powers Avenue, where police were responding to a suspicious person call.

Police initially didn’t disclose that an officer rammed his patrol car into Poolson before the shooting and instead characterized in a press release that Poolson “crashed” a motorcycle.

"Hearing my brother's last words 'Don’t shoot' has broken me," Poolson's sister, Shannon Wicker, said in a statement Sunday night. "De-escalation of situation — not escalation — should be the primary focus of police interaction. Police are to preserve life, not destroy it. The Littleton Police Department needs to demonstrate much better integrity and honesty when it gives information to grieving families who are the survivors of police violence."

The video file released to 9NEWS is a 27-minute long compilation of clips from apartment complex security cameras and the officers' body-worn cameras. They show the moments before and after the officer shot Poolson.

The file also contains an on-camera statement read by the chief of police who says, “We understand that there will be questions surrounding this incident…”

> Content warning: This video shows the shooting and moments after the man's death.

At the end of the file, dispatch audio reveals what the officer said just before the shooting. As the officer radios out Poolson’s description, it sounds as if he says Poolson "jumped his bike."

One security camera angle shows an officer chasing Poolson into the apartment complex and into a corner. Someone says the word “gun” and then “don’t shoot.” 

The shooting happens at a distance from the camera, and the video quality doesn’t clearly show what Poolson was doing with his hands before the shooting. 

The officer’s body camera was initiated, but the audio wasn't on during the first 30 seconds, when the shooting occurred, and the lens was obscured by the officer's clothing or jacket at the crucial moment. 

The footage also captures what happened after the shooting as more officers responded. 

A handgun can be seen next to Poolson's body, and the officer refers to the weapon several times to other officers and paramedics. 

About 4 minutes and 50 seconds pass between the shooting and when officers first put their hands on Poolson to start first aid. 

Wicker told 9NEWS she released the video because it raises more questions about what happened, and she wants to know why it took police nearly five minutes to render aid.

On Sunday, the Littleton Police Department released the following statement: 

On Friday, February 24 the Littleton Police Department (LPD) released to the family of the deceased, unedited video, and audio recordings of the Officer Involved Shooting that occurred on the morning of February 2, 2023.

This action was taken in compliance with Colorado State Law. LPD released the video to the family and is waiting the 72-hour required time frame prior to releasing the video publicly. The compilation of video contains all unedited footage of this incident that was acquired during this investigation. Please note, the LPD does not have dashboard cameras in any patrol vehicle. This video will be released publicly on Monday, February 27.

It is the commitment of the Littleton Police Department to provide transparency to our actions. We understand that there will still be questions surrounding this incident. Per standard policy, it is important to note this case in still under external investigation by the 18th Judicial District Critical Response Team (CRT) and additional information cannot be released at this time.

Per department policy an internal review of this incident will be completed separate from (and upon the completion of) the CRT investigation into the shooting. The internal review is intended to assess the incident for departments policy compliance and to identify any potential training needs or modifications.

Please be advised that this video contains graphic content that may be difficult to watch. The deceased’s face has been blurred in an effort to protect a privacy interest.

Wicker released the following statement:

With the loss of Stephen, my children do not understand why they will never see their uncle again. We will never hear his big cheerful laugh again. Our mother is destroyed that her only son is gone. Stephen made some poor choices in his life and we do not condone those. But those choices should not have led to a death sentence. Stephen ran for a reason - fear. Moments before he was shot and killed, he had just been violently hit by a police vehicle. Hearing my brother's last words "Don’t shoot" has broken me. Deescalation of situation—not escalation—should be the primary focus of police interaction.  Police are to preserve life, not destroy it. The Littleton police department needs to demonstrate much better integrity and honesty when it gives information to grieving families who are the survivors of police violence.

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