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Pima prosecutor probes fatal shooting of man in wheelchair by Tucson cop

Conover: Decision on charges against TPD officer will come after 'deliberative review'

Pima County prosecutors will begin reviewing the fatal shooting of a man in a motorized wheelchair by a Tucson police officer two weeks ago, County Attorney Laura Conover said Friday.

The officer, who the Tucson Police Department said was being fired, faces potential criminal charges in the deadly incident.

In a video statement, Conover said that her office has now received the "bulk of the necessary evidence" from the Tucson Police Department, and would begin an investigation into the Nov. 29 fatal shooting of Richard Lee Richards just outside of a Lowe's home improvement store.

TPD Officer Ryan Remington shot and killed the 61-year-old man as he attempted to roll into the store, hitting him nine times in the back. Remington was working on a "special duty assignment" as a security guard when he responded to a call from Walmart employees that Richards shoplifted a toolbox, and threatened an employee with a knife.

Conover had indicated earlier, after the deadly incident, that prosecutors had not yet received all of the evidence about the case from TPD. Friday, she said the investigation by her office would start.

"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 released Friday morning. "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. 

On Nov. 30, Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus, who resigned this week after being confirmed as the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, announced that Remington, a four-year veteran at TPD, was being fired after violating "multiple aspects" of the department's use-of-force policy when he shot Richards. Magnus said that he was "deeply disturbed and troubled" by Remington's actions. 

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"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." 

The incident started at a Walmart at 1650 W. Valencia Rd. around 6 p.m. on Nov. 28, when Richards reportedly stole a toolbox from the store, Magnus said. A Walmart employee 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.

"The video is jarring," said Conover on Friday. "And, the video represents but a fraction of the evidence we must evaluate to determine if criminal charges are warranted in this incident."

In the video, Remington, who was working as a security guard that night, 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 a 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.

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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. 

"In order to preserve the impartiality of our prosecutors and to protect the integrity of the process, I cannot and will not comment further about this matter at this time," said Conover. "Thank you for continuing to be patient. Be safe and be well."

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 TucsonSentinel.com 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. 

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2 comments on this story

2
74 comments
Dec 11, 2021, 7:22 am
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It doesn’t take much to wake up the county attorney does it? Just a wheelchair bound man shot by a cop while “escaping”.

Jesus I know we don’t pay elected officials much in AZ but can someone at least try to care about the public welfare?

1
2 comments
Dec 10, 2021, 6:08 pm
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It’s bad enough those 3 police didn’t get fired and are now probably working in other areas of this country.  Now if Remington doesn’t get charged with murder, he too will quit instead of being fired…and go work somewhere else.  The “bad apple” concept of cop includes recycling bad apples back out into the public, sharing them all over the nation.  Thank your local/national police union for that.

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PCAO video

Laura Conover announced the Pima County Attorney's Office is now reviewing the fatal shooting of Richard Lee Richards, 61, who was shot to death by TPD officer Ryan Remington on Nov. 29.