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For Kareem Jones' Family, Police Videos Only Raise More Questions

Columbus Police
Columbus Police released body cam video that shows the fatal shooting of Kareem Jones in Franklinton.

"Oh my God!" "Why why why why why?" "Keep them back." "Get back, get back, get back."

That's how the audio starts, after two Columbus Police officers shot Kareem Ali Nadir Jones. Taken from the body camera of Samuel James, one of two officers involved, the audio only captures the aftermath of the July 7 shooting.

Jones died three days later.

James, along with officer Marc Johnson, were patrolling a neighborhood in Franklinton when they came across Jones in a Schultz Avenue backyard. He was looking for kids who had thrown rocks at the next door neighbor's car.

The body camera video shows two officers exiting a cruiser with guns drawn, with Jones' hands immediately going in the air.

But it’s impossible to hear what officers or Jones said—the camera’s microphone wasn’t turned on yet. Deputy Chief Richard Bash explains that's a result of the camera's technology.

"The first 60 seconds will not have any audio because that is the lookback feature," Bash says. "So as soon as an officer activates their camera, the video portion goes back 60 seconds. The audio doesn’t start ‘til the officer actually activates his camera."

As shown in the video, Jones reaches behind his back towards his waistband, where an object bulges out. Officers fire.

After Jones is shot, police say they found a gun in a patch of grass by the fence adjacent to his body.

"There’s the gun!" one says in the video.

Jones’ sister, Marica Phipps, says the initial lack of audio leaves her family more confused than before they saw the video.

"We’ll never know because there’s no audio," Phipps said in a press conference Thursday. "I don’t know if they told my brother to get on the ground. I don’t know what they told my brother. I don’t know if they said, 'Do you have a gun? Get on the ground.' We’ll never know."

Either way, Phipps says she doesn't understand why police shot her brother, rather than using another tactic.

"I would have preferred for him to be here today," Phipps says. "I think if he had been tazed, he’d be here today."

Credit Erin Gottsacker
Marica Phipps, center, says her brother Kareem Jones would be alive today if he had been tazed instead of shot by police.

But Jason Pappas, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police—the union that represents police—says officers had no choice but to shoot Jones.

"We do not train less than lethal force in a lethal situation," Pappas says.

In one of the videos, James explains what happened to an additional officer at the scene.

"We roll up, we’re talking to him, and we see a bulge in his waistband under his shirt and we say, 'That’s gotta be a phone.’ And as we let him walk towards this girl, we go, ‘Is that a gun or a phone?’ I’m recording all this by the way," Jones says. "Anyway, he draws down on him, he pulls his f*cking gun on us."

Phipps says she's not sure why her brother would have had a gun.

"He’s had some bumps on the road, and he’s been on probation and he probably shouldn’t have had a gun, and why he had one I don’t know," Phipps says.

Pappas confirms Jones was on probation and says he should not have had a gun at all.

Mayor Andrew Ginther says the release of the video is a graphic reminder of the dangers police face every day. He also says body cameras are an important investigative tool.

The Columbus Division of Police declined to comment, citing the pending investigation. A grand jury automatically reviews all fatal police-involved shootings. 

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.