Recently obtained body camera video shows fuller picture of Tyler Rushing shooting
Scott Rushing was torn.
The CN&R had recently obtained long-sought police body-camera footage showing a fuller picture from the July 2017 incident in which his son, 34-year-old Tyler Rushing of Ventura, was shot and killed by Chico police and a security guard.
Asked for his thoughts on the newspaper publishing the video, the father had mixed feelings. It’s violent, horrible and hard to watch, he said. But it also shows what he called the “unvarnished truth,” which he said he believes is important for the public to see because it supports his view that the police used unnecessary force on Tyler.
“I’m going to keep pushing for the truth,” he said. “I’ve always said that. … I want the unvarnished truth. We still don’t have it. You just got it in that little bit of film.”
The footage, which was not released as part of Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey’s investigation clearing then-Sgt. Scott Ruppel and the guard, Edgar Sanchez, of criminal wrongdoing, shows a separate officer, Alex Fliehr, tasing Tyler as he lie facedown on the floor of a bathroom inside a downtown Chico business after he’d been shot three times.
The video raises questions about his cause of death and the role a Taser shock played in it. It also illustrates a police department’s struggle to fulfill in a timely manner requests made under the California Public Records Act. The city released the footage on Jan. 28, about four months after the CN&R made its request.
Rushing had already seen the footage. He received it months after Ramsey’s investigation report was released in September 2017, and a portion of it has become one point of focus in the Rushing family’s ongoing lawsuit against the city of Chico in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.
Rushing said he was shocked by what he saw.
“I felt that Ramsey had omitted the details of that action by Fliehr because it showed Fliehr and the department in an unfavorable light,” he said. “It would have been a positive addition to my case to expose the unnecessary tasing of Tyler and the violent way it was done.”
The segment of video not previously released to the public—recorded from the perspective of Fliehr’s body-worn camera on July 23, 2017—shows Tyler lying in a pool of bloody water inside the bathroom at Mid Valley Title & Escrow Co. He had just been shot twice by Ruppel during a struggle in which Tyler allegedly stabbed Ruppel in the neck with a ballpoint pen and another officer in the forehead with a shattered piece of a toilet tank.
In the video, which includes redactions, Fliehr says Tyler is alive and moving, and he announces that he will stun Tyler to allow other officers to handcuff him “under power”—or while the Taser is in use. Following the tasing, Rushing is dragged out of the bathroom and pronounced dead on the scene minutes later.
As part of the ongoing civil case, the Rushing family hired a medical doctor to review autopsy and medical reports. The doctor, Jaron Ross of Davis, noted that Tyler had already been shot once in the chest by a security guard before retreating to the bathroom. He was losing blood through the duration of the approximately hour-long incident, according to court documents, and likely was close to collapsing before the police broke into the room.
The doctor offered that if, after being shot twice by Ruppel and bitten by a police dog, Tyler was still moving as indicated by Fliehr, “it seems more probable than not that the electrophysical energy from the tazer [sic] was the final blow which stopped his heart.”
“It just broke our heart—that Tyler might be alive today,” Rushing said, adding, “That’s just the coup de grace that makes the whole killing so hard to take for us.”
According to court documents, Fliehr testified during a deposition about the reasons he used the Taser.
“I did not want him to jump up and try to stab more officers while they attempted to handcuff him, especially since I could not see one of his hands and I did not know if there was a weapon. I know he had one at one point,” Fliehr said.
Chico Police Chief Mike O’Brien told the CN&R that he would not comment on pending litigation but confirmed that Fliehr, who also was a shooting officer in the March 2017 death of Desmond Phillips, remains employed by the department.
During a phone interview, Ramsey pushed back against the notion that he omitted information in his investigation of Tyler’s death. He said the fact that Tyler was tased after he was shot was included in his written report that was released to the public. He further noted that an autopsy conducted days after the shooting showed “that the Taser had nothing to do with his death.”
Ramsey said the decision to withhold the segment of video showing Tyler’s tasing in part came down to a matter of taste. The scene was “very bloody, gory,” and Tyler can be seen being pulled roughly from the bathroom to medics waiting outside.
“Showing Mr. Rushing’s either dead or dying body for the world to see just didn’t seem respectful to the family,” Ramsey said. “There’s nothing withheld at all. What is put out and not put out doesn’t change the facts of the case.”