Featured photo: A screenshot from GPD Officer Corrigan’s body-worn camera footage that shows Graham Roberson through the windshield before he gets shot. (screenshot)

A picture of Graham Roberson from the online obituary.

On June 22, 2023, Graham Thomas Roberson, a 51-year-old white man was shot and killed by Greensboro police officer John P. Corrigan. And on Monday, the Greensboro Police Department released the body-cam and vehicle footage from the incident after a Superior Court judge granted the department’s request to release the footage. They are now available to view on GPD’s YouTube page here.

The compilation video, which runs close to 13 minutes long, shows Officer Corrigan’s interactions before, during and after the shooting. Here’s what we know so far.

The first release

The initial release from the city was scant in details.

According to the department, Corrigan was driving around Tuscaloosa Street around midnight on June 22 looking for a suspicious vehicle. That’s when the officer noticed Roberson walking on the street. The officer approached him in the car.

“As the officer approached, the subject displayed a firearm. The officer fired their weapon from inside their police vehicle, striking the subject,” the release stated.

Subsequent reporting by the News and Record found that Roberson never fired the firearm he had, just displayed it. The newly released footage fills out the rest of the picture, including the fact that Roberson had a BB gun and a toy gun, but no real firearm.

What the footage shows

The video starts by explaining the process for releasing the videos and shares facts that led up to Officer Corrigan’s interaction with Roberson. Vital parts of the footage are emphasized in bold.

  • Around 2:35: The vehicle-mounted footage begins to play. 
  • Around 3:10: Corrigan passes a man — presumably Roberson — walking on the street to the left of the car. Then, Corrigan drives up to a church parking lot and turns around, heading back towards the person who was walking. 
  • Around 4:16: Corrigan slows down his vehicle as Roberson approaches the vehicle on the right-hand side.
  • Around 4:20: Roberson appears to point something towards the patrol car
  • From 4:30-7:17: Police Chief John Thompson explains what viewers are about to see in the next half of the video. It is revealed that the suspicious vehicle call was placed from Roberson’s residence.
  • Around 7:35: Viewers can see Roberson approaching the vehicle through the patrol car’s front windshield from footage captured on Officer Corrigan’s body-worn camera.
  • Around 7:37: Viewers can hear Officer Corrigan shoot five rounds at Roberson but cannot see it. Corrigan then radios, “Shots fired.”
  • Around 7:43: Officer Corrigan exits his patrol car with his gun in hand and approaches Roberson who is lying face down on the ground.
  • Around 7:56: Officer Corrigan asks Roberson, “Where is it?” about the object he had pointed towards the patrol car earlier before Corrigan shot him. He asks him “Where is it?” again.
  • Around 7:59: Roberson responds, “I don’t know. It was a BB gun.” GPD later confirmed that Roberson had a BB gun and a toy gun but no real gun.
  • Around 8:03: Officer Corrigan yells, “Put your hands out!”
  • Around 8:05: Roberson responds, “I can’t move.”
  • Around 8:18: It is a bit unclear but it sounds like Roberson says, “You fucked up, man.”
  • Around 8:20: Roberson starts to say, “You made a goddamn…” The last word that Roberson says is unclear.
  • Around 8:23: Officer Corrigan radios for EMS for the first time and says that the suspect was “shot multiple times.”
  • Around 8:35: Roberson can be heard groaning, indicating that he is still alive.
  • Around 9:22: Officer Corrigan handcuffs Roberson. Roberson is still and quiet.
  • Around 9:46: Officer Corrigan radios for EMS again, says that Roberson was “shot multiple times” and is “not conscious, not breathing.”
  • Around 10:06: Officer Corrigan rolls Roberson’s body over so that he is facing up. He finds and removes what appears to be a different silver handgun from Roberson’s front waistband. This is later confirmed to be a toy gun.
  • Around 10:17: Corrigan starts performing CPR on Roberson 2 minutes and 38 seconds after first shooting him.
  • Around 10:24: Corrigan checks Roberson’s pulse.
  • Around 10:34: Officer Corrigan exclaims, “Fuck” and continues CPR.
  • Around 10:45: EMS personnel show up and Corrigan tells them where the guns were.
  • Around 10:56: An EMS employee asks Corrigan, “Officer involved?” To which Corrigan replies, “Yeah, I shot him.” Then EMS takes over. 

What happened afterwards

A screenshot from GPD Officer Corrigan’s body-worn camera footage that shows Graham Roberson through the windshield before he gets shot. (screenshot)

On June 22, Officer Corrigan was placed on administrative duty. According to TCB’s past reporting, Corrigan was hired in 2018 and is 32 years old. He currently makes $54,762 annually.

On Feb. 26, Guilford County District Attorney Avery Crump determined that Corrigan’s actions were justified by both the commonlaw principles of self-defense and also by NCGS 15A-401 which “permits the use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer to defend himself or another from what he reasonably believes to be the imminent use of deadly force,” according to the police department.

In her statement, Crump wrote that “wherein mere seconds elapsed from the moment Graham Roberson raised and pointed what appeared to be a handgun at Officer Corrigan and when Officer Corrigan had time to react, the undersigned will not recommend the filing of a criminal charge against the officer involved.”

The second “gun” was in fact, a toy gun.

The Greensboro Police Department is conducting its own investigation into the incident as well, which has not been made public.

What questions remain

While the shooting of Roberson may have been found to be justified based on state law, questions remain as to why it took Corrigan so long to administer potentially life-saving aid to Roberson. Based on the video footage, Corrigan started CPR on Roberson 2 minutes and 38 seconds after shooting him five times. He also waits almost a full minute after handcuffing Roberson to start CPR.

According to the GPD’s directives, “whenever an officer uses force on an individual in custody, the officer will ensure the individual receives appropriate medical treatment as outlined in Departmental Directive 11.1.5. If an individual is affected by a use of police force, and is not in-custody, officers will make reasonable efforts to ensure any associated medical issues are addressed.”

However, a look at Directive 11.1.5 shows that there are no specific guidelines in place for when and how to administer life-saving aid like CPR after a police shooting.

There’s also the question of Roberson’s motivations and why he was walking around with a BB gun and a toy gun. According to his Facebook page, his most recent post from Jan. 13, 2023, about five months before this incident, shows Roberson’s unstable state of mind. He posts how his wife died in August 2022 and how he wants “nothing more than to join her.” However, Roberson goes on to say that he “will never commit suicide.”

Roberson also has one review on his Facebook for the Greensboro Police Department in which he writes, “Stop beating people for no reason. Thugs. Horrible thugs.”

In the past, TCB reported that one of the most prevalent types of deaths at the hands of law enforcement involve “suicide by cop” incidents. In these cases, victims exhibit suicidal behavior directed at law enforcement to elicit use of lethal force. That could explain the reason why Roberson had a BB gun and a toy gun when he approached Corrigan’s car. The question also remains as to why the call about a suspicious vehicle was made from Roberson’s residence.

Police footage and statements that have been put out also did not mention where Roberson was shot.

Who was Graham Roberson?

Facebook posts on Roberson’s profile show that he was married to Jessica Roberson in February 2020. An online obituary for Roberson notes that he was a Greensboro resident who graduated from Page High School and later from UNCG. 

“He enjoyed working with computers, spending time with friends, good music and cooking,” the obituary reads. “Graham was a natural DJ and spent time working with the radio station at Guilford College. More than anything, Graham loved time with his family and friends.”

In the tribute book linked on the obituary, Claudette Jones writes that they were a mail carrier for Roberson’s house.

“He was such a nice, personable person,” Jones writes. “We had several conversations in [sic] during the time I was his carrier. When I found out that it was Graham that got shot, my heart sank.”

Another person, Vernon L. Drake, writes that Roberson had recently opened up his home to Drake and his two dogs.

“He would share with me how he loved Blue Grass music; Especially the two brothers and daughter band [sic];” Drake writes. “He was definitely a person who was beyond tech savvy as he would show me things while staying with him. I am saddened by his passing especially how it came about because I Dont believe it.”

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