Footage from a body-mounted video camera illustrates a five-minute foot chase and a struggle over a rifle between David Alexander Molina and the Napa Police officer who shot and killed him last week, the agency announced Monday afternoon.
In a news conference at City Hall, Chief Robert Plummer shared portions of a 16-minute clip taken from a camera worn by Officer Christopher Simas shortly before 2 a.m. Wednesday. The video depicts the officer’s attempts to detain the 27-year-old Molina in response to a reported brandishing of a handgun near Soscol Avenue – including repeated orders for Molina to stop running and raise his hands, and the suspect’s curse-filled replies – before officer and suspect grappled for control of Simas’ police-issued AR-15 rifle, Plummer told reporters, saying the struggle began as Simas was trying to handcuff Molina.
The footage shown Monday, interspersed with a PowerPoint presentation showing a timeline of the incident, is often dark and chaotic and does not appear to clearly show either man pulling a trigger. But several gunshots are clearly audible from the scene of the incident near the Vineyard Terrace apartments on Soscol and Stonehouse Drive. Police said the suspect, whose name was earlier listed as David Alejandro Molina, fired eight or nine shots while trying to grab control of the AR-15 before it jammed.
“Show me your (expletive) hands!” Simas shouts in the video as the attempted arrest turns into a foot chase east toward the Napa River Trail. “Napa Z2, foot pursuit!” he then calls to an emergency dispatcher.
“You’re a bitch … Shut your (expletive) mouth. Let me go!” Molina says in the footage shortly before the first shots are fired.
Seconds later, Simas regained and re-racked the rifle, and when Molina charged at him, the officer fired five rounds, four of which struck the suspect, Plummer said.
Officers administered CPR to Molina, but emergency medical responders declared him dead at the scene at 2:05 a.m., according to police.
A revolver belonging to Molina was found 75 feet away from where he died, Plummer said.
Despite a light attachment for Simas’ body camera, the video footage is often murky and black, with no clear images of any gunshots. Molina is only fleetingly visible from the front, although the plaid sweatshirt he was reported to be wearing is discernible.
Had Molina survived the encounter, he likely would have faced allegations of attempted murder of a police officer, as well as possession of a loaded firearm by a felon, obstructing police and forcibly resisting a police officer, according to Plummer.
The shooting remains under investigation by the Napa County Sheriff’s Office and the county’s Major Crimes Task Force. Simas has been on paid administrative leave since the incident, in line with department policy after officer-involved shootings.
Napa Police used a combination of video clips and electronic slides to trace the timeline of the incident, which began with a call to the emergency dispatch desk at 1:48 a.m. Wednesday. The department played back audio of the call, in which a man reported Molina had shown a revolver under his shirt and assaulted his girlfriend. (Plummer said the assault was likely a “push or shove.”)
Three patrol cars were sent to the Kentwood Apartments at Soscol and River Glen Drive, and Simas, the first officer at the scene, contacted Molina at 1:51 a.m., according to police, who earlier said Molina was encountered skateboarding along Soscol Avenue. The resulting pursuit led southeast toward the Vineyard Terrace apartments, then east into a wooded area.
Simas makes about 36 separate commands to Molina to stop or put his hands up before shots are fired, body camera footage indicates.
Plummer said Napa Police is not immediately releasing the entire incident video because some portions are still being reviewed by investigators.
The death of Molina marks Napa Police’s first high-profile use of the body-camera and video storage system recently put into service at the department.
After a five-month equipment trial and gaining the City Council’s go-ahead in September, Napa Police began rolling out body-worn video cameras and digital evidence storage under a five-year contract with Arizona-based Axon. According to Plummer, some 80 officers have been equipped over the past month with the pocket-size 5-ounce cameras, which come in versions that can be mounted either on the shoulder or the chest.
Each device captures video of officers’ dealings with suspects and other people, and comes with a desktop dock that offloads footage into a cloud-based evidence storage network.
No footage from the body cameras can be deleted or redacted, Plummer said in September. Footage is stored on Evidence.com, a password-protected website operated by Axon.
High-profile cases such as officer-involved shootings could require viewing a few hundred hours of video, a task requiring several days, police Sgt. Kristofer Jenny told the Register earlier this year.
Napa Police’s release of video came 5 ½ days after the shooting of Molina, well ahead of a 45-day deadline for releasing police incident footage set by a California law that takes effect on New Year’s Day.