NY Daily News: NYPD body cam footage depicts fatal police shooting of mentally ill Queens woman in 2018

July 2, 2020

Criminal Justice, Disability Justice, Health Justice, Media Coverage, NYLPI v. NYPD, News, Transforming Mental Health Crisis Response

NY Daily News covered video footage of the NYPD fatal shooting of Susan Muller. NYPD shot and killed Ms. Muller (pictured) on September 17, 2018, after she called the police to report a burglary in her home in Queens. Following public reports of the shooting, NYLPI made a FOIL request for the unedited audio and video files from all of the body-worn cameras of every officer involved in the fatal incident. The NYPD provided a blanket denial to NYLPI’s FOIL request, refusing to provide even redacted portions of audio and video files on the basis of a host of asserted FOIL exemptions. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Melissa Crane ruled against the NYPD on June 3, 2020 and gave them 20 days to produce unredacted footage and audio of the shooting.

NY Daily News: GRAPHIC CONTENT: NYPD body cam footage depicts fatal police shooting of mentally ill Queens woman in 2018

By Rocco Parascandola and Molly Crane-Newman
July 1, 2020

A split second separated life and death two years ago for a mentally ill Queens woman cops say lunged at them with a knife, dramatic body cam video obtained by the Daily News shows.

Officers met Susan Muller outside her Maspeth home after she dialed 911 on Sept. 17, 2018 to report a burglary — and during the call, a recording shows, she also stated she had a “medical” emergency,

Muller met the officers outside, and accompanied them as they went into her apartment.

“Miss — ma’am — did you see anybody in here?” one cop asked her calmly as he entered what looked like a bedroom. Muller was out of view of the camera as the officer spoke.

Suddenly, his voice rose to a shout. “What the f— is that thing?” he yelled. Then, three shots are heard

Muller, 54, was fatally shot 50 seconds after the officers arrived on the call.

“Shots fired, shots fired. Get me a bus here,” another unnamed officer says over the police radio, before asking the cop who fired the shots, “You all right, kid?”

“She had a knife, she came at me with a knife,” the officer responds.

Several minutes after Muller was shot, a female officer can be heard saying that she has no pulse and orders her colleague to “just apply pressure.”

“Where’s she shot though? That’s the thing,” the colleague responds.

When an EMT arrives on scene, he can be heard asking the officers involved what happened. The cop whose body cam captured the aftermath responds, ”I just came in after the fact. I can’t really say. I don’t know.”

The News obtained the footage from New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, which is suing the city in hope of obtaining un-redacted video that shows the incident in its entirety.

The city appealed a June 1 ruling by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Melissa Crane that ordered the release of the unedited body cam footage.

Lawyers suing for the unredacted footage said they believe it will show that police should not be the ones to deal to people who are experiencing mental health crises, considering the ample documentation local authorities had that Muller was mentally ill.

“The officers should have arrived there knowing they likely would be responding to someone having a mental health crisis,” said Marinda van Dalen, senior staff attorney in the Disability Justice Program at NYLPI. “Ms Muller should not have been shot. Ms Muller should not have been killed.”

Muller was known to local police, who had responded to nine previous calls she made before the fatal altercation. Just eight days before her death, officers responding to a 911 call from Muller took her to the hospital for mental health treatment.

The city’s appeal could delay the case by at least a year, lawyers said. The case has already been delayed over year over a series of objections brought by the NYPD, according to the attorneys.

“It is shocking that New York City is appealing a decision requiring the release of footage from a fatal police shooting of a woman experiencing a mental health crisis while simultaneously touting expanded public access to body cam footage in the media,” van Dalen said.

The NYPD denied a Freedom of Information Law request for footage of the killing on April 15, citing an ongoing investigation even though the Queens District Attorney said it had finished its probe into the shooting over a year ago.

Police cited their internal investigation of the shooting and Muller’s privacy among reasons for withholding the footage.

The city’s appeal questions whether New York’s Freedom of Information Law warrants full disclosure of the body camera footage.

Footage of Muller’s death is the second video of a police-involved shooting of a mentally ill person that NYLPI has obtained in a year by court order.

The first was the Bronx shooting death of Miguel Richards, 31, which happened inside his apartment. NYLPI said the footage raises serious questions about officers’ handling of the interaction that led to his death, and believe police lost patience with the emotionally disturbed man — escalating what was already a tense situation.

The NYPD refused to comment on the case, and the city Law Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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