The Denver Police Department, which provided the bodycam video, has launched an internal investigation.
Officers were responding to a 911 call about a black man with a gun sitting in a car in a supermarket parking lot in Montclair on May 7.
“Stop right there,” a Denver police officer is heard shouting at Naphtali Israel on video. “Stop, because we got a call that you have a gun.”
The video shows an unarmed Israel being handcuffed and searched by police after he walked out of the supermarket.
“Just a trip to the supermarket and it turned into a nightmare,” Israel said.
Israel had asked his three stepdaughters — ages 14, 7 and 2 — to wait in the car with the doors open after the 2-year-old wanted snacks while he finished shopping.
“My 2-year-old, her mask kept falling down and she wanted snacks, so I said, ‘OK, the only way this is going to go a lot easier, I’m going to have my 14-year-old watch them in the car,'” Israel said.
His fiancée was at home with their newborn baby. Israel said he wanted to give her a break and get the kids out of the house.
A Safeway manager called 911 after a customer told her about a concern in the parking lot.
In the 911 call, the Safeway manager said, “Was wondering if we can get an officer over here right away over here to do a drive-by? I have another customer; they have left the premises. They reported an individual in a gray, silver Cadillac. They are still sitting in our parking lot, a black young male with a white hoodie. The customer that who witnessed and saw it said this gentleman has a gun. That he saw him with a gun, sitting in driver’s seat. Four-door Cadillac.”
A few minutes later, surveillance video from a HALO camera captured police arriving, and an officer is seen apparently drawing his weapon at the Cadillac.
“There were children sitting in that car. You pulled your firearm out, you aimed it at the children,” Israel said.
Said David Lane of Killmer, Lane and Newman, LLP, who is representing Israel: “This cop pulls his gun on the three little girls. There are no tinted windows on this car. It’s broad daylight he had the gun pointed directly on them while screaming directions to get your ‘blank’ hands off the steering wheel.”
He said it’s not a crime to have a gun in the car in the state of Colorado.
“The Supreme Court has said when you draw a gun on someone, that is a use of force and in order to use that level of force, you have to have probable cause that a crime has been committed,” Lane said.
Israel was confronted by police after walking out of the store. “I don’t know what the hell is going on. I was in there shopping,” he is heard telling officers on the video.
Israel had no gun on his person or in his Cadillac. After officers determined Israel was not the right guy, they let him go. But, he said, his children are now traumatized and he believes he was unnecessarily detained because of the color of his skin.
“His approach was wrong. He heard African-American, black man, weapon, so now you come with your gun drawn immediately?” he said.
DPD Division Chief Ron Thomas said his officers acted appropriately given the information they received on the call.
“I don’t perceive his weapon was pointed directly at the individuals in the car. He certainly withdrew his weapon from the holster, and he held it at a tactical position that we call a low-ready position,” Thomas said.
The Denver police sergeant who withdrew his weapon did not have his body camera activated.
“That will be part of the investigation. There are certainly situations where body cameras must be activated and there are certainly exceptions to that if something is rapidly developing and you don’t have time to activate it before you have to take an action for your own safety or safety of another person,” Thomas said.
Israel wants police to be held accountable. “My children deserve an apology,” he said. “I’m tired of the rhetoric. It’s time for real change.”
Denver police reached out to Israel’s attorney to set up a meeting to discuss this situation.
Kris Staaf, a Safeway spokesperson, sent the following statement about the incident: “The concerned customer, who was African-American, reported that they saw someone, also African-American, in a car in the store parking lot with a gun. The reporting customer was afraid for his safety and the safety of others. The call speaks for itself and this matter was placed in the hands of Denver Police Department.”