Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings said the officer who shot Martavious Banks in a hotly disputed incident this week didn’t have his body camera activated, as department policy requires, but other officers at the shooting scene had switched on their body cameras.
A total of three police officers have been relieved of duty during the investigation: the officer who fired at Banks in South Memphis on Monday evening, plus two others who were involved in a prior traffic stop and appear to have deactivated their video systems, the police department has said.
Rallings had made the statement that some officers at the scene had their body cameras switched on during a Tuesday news conference, but said in a later interview that many people had overlooked what he said.
“I’ve seen all types of stuff out there that almost makes it appear that there’s some type of conspiracy, and I don’t think that’s the case at all,” Rallings said in an interview with WMC TV that was reposted on the police department’s Facebook page. “We were concerned that the primary officer’s body-worn camera was not activated, and that was one of the reasons why we wanted the (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation) to come in.”
Rallings and police department representatives wouldn’t say whether the other officers’ body cameras captured images of the shooting of Banks.
“Full details of what was captured is unavailable at this point due to this investigation is now an ongoing TBI investigation,” police spokeswoman Lt. Karen Rudolph wrote in a message.
The 25-year-old was critically injured in a case that’s drawn vocal complaints from his family, activists and elected officials.
The circumstances of the shooting are murky, though the police department has said Banks was armed and that a gun was found at the scene. Banks’ family has disputed the police account.
In that same Tuesday news conference, Rallings had also said that two other officers who encountered Banks during a traffic stop prior to the shooting weren’t using their cameras properly:
“After further review, it was discovered that two additional officers who were involved in the original stop at Gill and Pillow deactivated either their body-worn cameras or in-car video systems during the pursuit from Gill and Pillow,” Rallings had said on Tuesday.
For hours after the officer-involved shooting, the Memphis Police Department investigated the shooting on its own. The reason: a memorandum of agreement between local authorities and TBI focuses on fatal police shootings. Though badly hurt, Banks didn’t die.
The next day, though, the Shelby County District Attorney’s office and the police department asked the TBI to come in. By that point, the shooting scene had already been opened up to foot traffic and vehicles.