The video footage is raw, showing Flagstaff, Az., police officer Tyler Stewart chatting with a man accused of breaking things in his girlfriend’s apartment a day earlier. “Do you mind if I just pat down your pockets real quick? You don’t have anything in here?” Stewart, 24, can be heard asking the suspect, Robert Smith, 28, who had his hands jammed in his pockets, the Los Angeles Times reports. “No, no — my smokes,” replies Smith, who had been chuckling moments earlier. Smith then draws a revolver so fast that the gun is almost a blur. The video stops. Stewart is shot five times before Smith fatally shoots himself.
The Flagstaff Police Department released the body camera footage this week in response to media public records requests. For months, nationwide calls for police to wear body cameras have grown as activists and some public officials have pushed for answers after high-profile use-of-force incidents, including the fatal police shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson Mo. “That’s what these cameras are for,” said Tim McGuire, who teaches ethics at the Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “They’re for accountability, and they’re designed to minimize controversy and educate the public about how these things come down.”