By Jariah Moore
MODESTO, CA – Bodycam footage of the encounter between former Police Officer Joseph Lamantia and a victim revealed in a hearing here in Stanislaus County Superior Court this week appeared to show the accused officer fired at the victim as the victim was complying with orders to raise his hands.
The case was filed in 2021 following the shooting of the victim by Officer Joseph Lamantia, and his preliminary examination proceeded this week as Defense Attorney Roger Wilson reviewed the bodycam footage in his opening to the court.
The defense claimed the victim had turned and began to run toward the accused, though his motivations for doing so were not clear. Officer Lamantia fired at the victim in response, said the defense attorney.
Wilson emphasized the position of the victim’s arms throughout the footage, particularly that his right arm appeared to be down by his side at several points. He told the court the victim’s family said the victim was in possession of a gun.
Wilson noted, “When most police officers are murdered, they’re murdered with handguns, predominantly, a predominant amount of the time.”
Wilson also explained, however, that the quality of the bodycam footage makes the victim’s precise movements difficult to decipher, stating, “His movements are very difficult to see, because he’s too far away.”
Defense counsel went on to note, “You always have to keep in mind, if there was a better camera, recording this from a closer, better perspective, it might show you something, tell you a different story.”
After having been shot, the victim on the footage lowered his right hand several times, though he raised it again each time the officer ordered him to do so.
After the third time that he had lowered his right hand, the victim began to raise it again, but he was shot by Officer Lamantia in the process. He had also been shot shortly before both of his hands were raised.
“During that time [that the gun is cycling from the first shot], the right arm comes up into view, and then fully comes up into view by the time that he [the officer] is firing the second shot,” Wilson explained.
The defense argued it was at that moment the accused officer had been multitasking between speaking on his radio and keeping track of the victim’s actions. According to Wilson, the accused was trying to “perform multiple tasks at the same time, which, we know as humans, we don’t do that very well.”
Wilson also explained, however, that the victim likely was not clearly in the officer’s view by the time the accused began firing, arguing the “subject is out of focus” in the sight of the accused officer’s gun and that he is “covered by the gun,” attempting to justify why Officer Lamantia fired shots despite the fact that the victim had already begun raising his hands.
The defense explained during the beginning of the hearing that the quality of training police officers receive regarding when to use deadly force tends to vary, noting, “Some agencies have got really good training on it…but a lot of agencies are not getting the training they need on it.”
Judge Carrie Stephens set the preliminary hearing to reconvene Feb. 9.