For Immediate Release
New York, NY June 3, 2020 – Miguel Richards was shot and killed by New York City police wearing body cameras on September 6, 2017. But the NYPD edited the video footage to mislead the public about what really happened, according to lawyers for the Richards family.
Now Richards’s parents are calling on the state legislature to repeal the law that let the police deceive the public for almost two years after their son was senselessly shot down during a “wellness check.” Measures to reform the law are pending. Gov. Cuomo said on Saturday that he would support them.
Civil Rights Law 50-a is a privacy law intended to give public servants protection from release of their disciplinary records.
But the City of New York has tried to use the law in court to shield embarrassing material from disclosure even if it had nothing to do with personnel records. In the Richards case, the police department quickly released a sanitized version of the body-worn camera footage — it was the first police shooting caught on tape after NYPD officers started using the cameras.
A civil rights organization, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, demanded the complete tapes. The City claimed they were protected by 50-a. A judge disagreed and forced the police department to turn over the tapes.
The full video shows a harrowing disregard for Richards’s life, according to the lawsuit filed by the family’s attorneys, Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma and Daniel McGuinness.
“You can see on the tape the officers say that Miguel is alive after the shooting, but he is on the ground bleeding, unarmed, and posing no threat,” said Margulis-Ohnuma. “Instead of rendering medical assistance, the officers drag him around the floor, handcuff him and, in effect, kill him.”
All this was kept secret under 50-a until a judge intervened.
The Richards family believes that the legislature should act to improve police accountability and prevent further tragedies. “We the family of Miguel Richards are in full support of the law’s repeal,” his parents, Belvett and Barbara Richards, said in a statement. “We condemn the police for the use of excessive force and wish that no more innocent lives will be taken in the way our son Miguel’s life was ended in such a cruel and unjustified manner.”
For more information on the lawsuit, see https://www.zmolaw.com/news/first-amended-complaint-filed-8-7-19/
For more information on the issue, the New York City Bar Association just put out a report supporting specific legislation that would repeal Civil Rights Act Sec. 50-a: https://www.nycbar.org/member-and-career-services/committees/reports-listing/reports/detail/promote-police-transparency-repeal-crl-50-a