Editor’s note: This article describes, in detail, footage from police body-worn cameras that depict the shooting of Joseph Lopez. The article also shares links to the video footage in its entirety. View and read at own risk.
UPDATED 6/9/2022, 4:35 p.m.: This article initially stated that Graham Holt had seen additional footage that the city had not released. Holt has updated his response to say that the footage he saw before was in fact, Video #5 which was included in the release from Wednesday evening.
On Wednesday evening, the city of Greensboro released 10 police body-worn camera videos as well as a compilation of the 10 videos on their official YouTube page. The videos show events leading up to and after the shooting of Joseph Lopez by former Greensboro police officer Matthew Hamilton, who was indicted by a grand jury for manslaughter and terminated from the department on Monday.
Lopez died on Nov. 19, 2021 after multiple police officers responded to a 911 call to the house where Lopez had allegedly been staying. Four days before Lopez was killed, Guilford County Sheriff’s deputies arrested him at the house for possession by felon of firearms. After locating Lopez in a shed behind the home, officers including Hamilton, surround the building and tell Lopez to come out. Then Hamilton tells Lopez that he’s going to send his police dog into the shed.
“Hey listen to me: Come on out. I’m getting ready to put the dog in there,” Hamilton says at the 3:56 mark in the compilation video.
Thirty seconds later, Hamilton releases the dog into the shed.
It then appears that Lopez tells officers he is coming out of the shed, just moments before Officer Hamilton enters the building and shoots his gun.
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Lopez says at the 4:26 mark of the compilation video.
Six seconds later, Hamilton enters the shed and immediately fires off a single round of his gun, then exclaims, “Oh shit, oh fuck.”
Video #3, taken on a camera worn by an officer a few yards away from the shed, has clearer sound that shows Lopez saying he will come out at the 9:05 mark.
In a phone call on Thursday morning, Lopez family attorney Graham Holt confirmed that he also believes he heard Lopez say those words.
“It sounds like he’s saying, ‘I’m coming,'” Holt said.
Prior to Wednesday evening, Holt was one of the only individuals who had seen the body-worn camera footage, evidence in the civil lawsuit he filed with attorney Flint Taylor on behalf of Lopez’s father, Joe Lopez, on Monday.
In addition to showing Lopez’s last moments, the videos also clarify how many times Lopez was shot and where. In Video #5, an officer examines Lopez’s bloody face after they’ve carried him outside of the shed and laid him on the ground.
Starting at the 14-minute mark, the officer begins talking to EMS personnel about potential bullet wounds.
“I only got one round,” the officer says.
He then points to blood on Lopez’s back, which another officer says may just be from the entry wound on Lopez’s face. The officer agrees by saying, “It might just be blood…. So yes, just face.”
It’s important to note that while Officer Hamilton gave verbal warning before sending the canine into the shed, he did not do so before firing one shot from his gun. According to GPD directives, all officers are required to give warning before shooting.
In a memo released on Monday, Hamilton’s attorney Amiel Rossabi, places the blame on the lack of lighting in the shed.
“[T]here was very little lighting in the storage shed and it was packed with property,” Rossabi writes.
Hamilton did not use a flashlight when entering the shed.
After shooting Lopez in the face, Hamilton exclaims, “Oh shit, oh fuck,” and then tells other officers that enter the shed that he thought he saw Lopez holding something.
“I saw something in his hand,” Hamilton says at the 4:48 mark in the compilation video.
Rossabi argues in his statement that Hamilton’s belief was enough for him to use deadly force on Lopez.
“A police officer need not wait to be shot at or be shot in order to have reasonable belief that it is necessary to use deadly force to save himself and others from death or serious bodily harm,” Rossabi writes.
According to a statement published by the city of Greensboro at the beginning of the compilation video, Lopez was arrested four days before he was killed for “hiding under a blanket in a bedroom closet, brandishing a shotgun.”
Investigation by the GPD showed that Lopez did not have a gun at the time he was killed.
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