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Tucson cop fired after review of fatal shooting of man in wheelchair

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Tucson cop fired after review of fatal shooting of man in wheelchair

Remington faces criminal probe in Nov. 29 killing of Richards

  • Ryan Remington
    TPDRyan Remington

A Tucson police officer who fatally shot a man in a wheelchair in the back in November has been fired after an internal review. Ryan Remington still faces a criminal investigation in the death of Richard Lee Richards.

Tucson Police Department officials announced Wednesday that Remington was terminated "effective today."

TPD officials declined to comment or release the results of the internal administrative investigation, citing Remington's right to appeal under civil service rules.

The firing came at the direction of Chief Chad Kasmar, officials said.

TPD said in November that they were moving to fire Remington after he shot at Richards at least nine times, killing him as officers responded to a report of a theft of a toolbox by a man armed with a knife.

Former Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus, who has since become the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said then that he was "deeply disturbed and troubled" by the actions of Officer Ryan Remington.

During a press conference a day after the shooting, Magnus said that Remington, a TPD officer for the last four years, violated "multiple aspects" of the department's use-of-force policy when he fired his weapon at Richard Lee Richards, 61.

Richards, who was riding an electric mobility scooter, was hit multiple times in the back as he attempted to enter a Lowe's home improvement store on the South Side, ignoring the officers' commands.

"His use of deadly force in this incident was a clear violation of department policy," said Magnus. "As a result the department moved earlier today to terminate Officer Remington," he said.

Pima County prosecutors began reviewing the fatal shooting two weeks after the incident, after receiving the "bulk of the necessary evidence," County Attorney Laura Conover said in December.

"Charging decisions, especially involving incidents in which a loss of life has occurred, are not made in this office based on emotion," said Conover in a video announcement. "They are based on a deliberative review of all the facts and all the evidence at hand. It is our obligation, my obligation, to get these decisions right, not rushed, while strictly ensuring the rights of the accused as embodied in our Constitution and laws."

Conover said that a critical incident review group, which includes senior homicide prosecutors and experienced attorneys would conduct a "complete review" of the evidence, and determine whether to indict Remington on criminal charges.

The incident "remains under review," PCAO spokesman Joe Watson told the Sentinel on Wednesday. "As soon as PCAO’s investigation is complete, we will release those findings to the public."

Remington was hired by TPD on Jan. 6, 2017, officials said. His termination was effective Wednesday, a day before his fourth anniversary on the force.

Previous Pima County Attorney declined to prosecute officers

The Remington case will be a test for Conover, who was elected to her position in November 2020.

Earlier last year, the Pima County Attorney's Office — then led by Barbara LaWall — declined to prosecute three officers who resigned before they could be fired after they forcibly restrained a 27-year-old man and killed him during an incident in April 2020. 

An internal investigation found that the three officers — Samuel Routledge, Ryan Starbuck and Jonathan Jackson — showed "showed complete disregard" for their training, "but most importantly an apparent indifference or inability to recognize an individual in medical distress and take the appropriate action." 

Carlos Ingram-Lopez died on April 21 when the three officers pinned him to the floor of a garage, and despite his protests that he couldn't breathe, they placed a "spit sock" over his head, and left him there for nearly 12 minutes. 

Ingram-Lopez's death became national news after broke news of a months-long cover-up and Tucson police officials released body-cam footage during a press conference on June 24, more than two months after the incident occurred, showing a partial view often obscured by darkness of the enclosed garage and the officers' movement. 

An independent pathologist, hired by the Ingram-Lopez's family found that he died from suffocation.

Romero: Shooting was 'unconscionable and indefensible'

In a statement a day after the shooting, Mayor Regina Romero called the Remington's actions "unconscionable and indefensible."

The incident started at a Walmart at 1650 W. Valencia Rd. around 6 p.m. on Nov. 29, when Richards stole a toolbox from the store, Magnus said. A Walmart employee reportedly tried to stop Richards and asked for a receipt, and Richards brandished a knife, telling the worker, "Here's your receipt," Magnus said.

Before videos of the incident were shown to reporters, Magnus warned that "What you're about to see is disturbing."

The two-minute video, which includes security camera footage from the parking lot and the home improvement store, as well as video from Remington's body-worn camera, shows the incident.

In the video, Remington, who was working a "special duty assignment" as a security guard, joined the Walmart employees, and began walking behind Richards through a parking lot. Video of the incident from security cameras shown by Magnus on Tuesday showed Remington walking between cars, trailing Richards, along with TPD Officer Stephanie Taylor, who responded to the Walmart incident.

At one point, according to the Walmart employee, Richards said, "If you want me to put down the knife, you’re going to have to shoot me," a news release from Magnus said Tuesday night.

Body-camera video showed that the two officers were following closely behind Richards. As he got close to the garden entrance of the Lowe's store, across the street and parking lots from the Walmart at 1800 W. Valencia Rd., officers again ordered him to stop.

As Richards headed into the Lowe's in his powered wheelchair, the two officers began to run after him, telling him to halt.

He ignored their order.

As recorded in the videos, Remington warned Taylor, the other officer, that "He's got a knife in his other hand."

"Do not go into the store, sir," said Taylor. "Stop now, you need to…."

At that moment, Remington pulled out his sidearm and fired a salvo of shots, followed by one last shot.

The man in the wheelchair slumped over, and then crumpled to his left, onto the ground.

As Taylor went to check on the injured man, Remington said he'll get his "I-FAK," a term for a medical kit, and began to run.

Taylor grabbed Richards' arms and began handcuffing him, the video showed.

Richards was declared dead at the scene, Magnus said.

Remington was the only officer who fired a weapon during the incident, authorities said.

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