St. Paul police release body cam video of fatal shooting of Billy Hughes

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell speaks to the press.
St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell speaks to the press regarding the fatal shooting of Billy Hughes earlier this month.
Lacey Young | MPR News

Updated: 8:33 p.m. | Posted: 3:35 p.m.

St. Paul Police released police body camera videos during a Friday afternoon press conference showing the fatal shooting of an armed 43-year-old man by two of the department's officers.

Police Chief Todd Axtell called the Aug. 5 shooting "absolutely heart wrenching for all involved."

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Police Shooting St Paul
Friend Alicia Smith, left, comforts Melissa Waukazo, the sister of William "Billy" Hughes after a ceremony for her brother on Monday, Aug. 6, 2018 in St. Paul, Minn.
Richard Tsong-Taatarii | Star Tribune via AP

Axtell said he balanced his "duty and obligation" to the active investigation into the fatal shooting with "wide-spread rumor" about the shooting. He said he hoped releasing the video would dispel rumors and provide facts to the larger community, provide transparency and keep his officers safe.

"This is just a tragedy for all," Axtell said.

Officers Matthew Jones and Vincent Adams, both on the force since 2013, shot William "Billy" Hughes when they confronted him on an enclosed porch of a home in the city's Summit-University neighborhood. The officers were answering a 911 call of multiple shots being fired at the house.

The two body cam videos show each officer walking up to the first floor of the two-story home, with their guns drawn and flashlights shining into the porch.

On Adams' body cam video, he can be heard knocking on the door. The officers don't identify themselves or say police at that point.

A voice inside can be heard saying: "I will kill you ..." on the video.

Hughes opens the interior door and the officers say "Police, hands up."

Hughes steps onto the porch and turns and faces the officers. Both officers can be heard yelling: "Put your hands up, Put your hands up." A gun can be seen in Hughes' right hand. He then can be seen raising his right hand up.

Axtell said during the press conference that "Mr. Hughes raised the gun in a sweeping fashion over the officers."

Investigation continues

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is still investigating the shooting.

Axtell stopped short of saying if his officers were justified and said that is a determination for the county attorney.

The Ramsey County Attorney's office said because the case is still under investigation, it has no timeline on how long it will take to make a decision on whether there will be charges.

In a statement, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said his office will consider all the evidence collected by the BCA when making a decision.

"While the video that the public will see today is one critical piece of evidence, it does not tell the entire story," he said.

Choi added that he has instructed prosecutors to conduct their review as the BCA continues their investigation.

"To enable all of this to happen, the BCA has agreed to present us evidence as they collect it," he said. "We are receiving information from them on a daily basis, so I am confident we will have what we need to make our decision more quickly than in past officer-involved shooting incidents we have reviewed."

Details of 911 call

A search warrant filed in Ramsey County said the roommate of Hughes called 911. The roommate later told the BCA that Hughes had fallen out of his elevated bed, and grew verbally hostile with the roommate. The roommate told the BCA that Hughes took out a gun and shot two to three shots into the bedroom wall, then his gun jammed. The roommate said Hughes then cleared the gun and pointed it at the roommates' head, making comments about the color of the roommate's hat.

The roommate left the home and called 911.

St. Paul Police were called to Hughes' apartment at 905 St. Anthony Ave. at 2:34 a.m.

Axtell said he watched the video with Hughes' family members Friday.

He said the family was heartbroken and said they shared memories of Hughes: "his kind heart and how much they miss him. He was a good man and he was in pain."

Axtell showed two sealed cards he said that Hughes' sister gave to him to give to the officers.

"I don't know what they say," the chief said. "It's a moment in my career that will leave an indelible mark on me.

"Its the first time in my career I've seen such grace by a family meet with such a tragedy," Axtell said.

ACLU of Minnesota executive director John Gordon welcomed the police department's transparency. And he said officers need to protect themselves.

"But having a gun, in and of itself, is not enough reason for somebody to be shot," Gordon said. "We've been saying for a long time that officers need extensive training on how to secure an area, how to deescalate a situation, so that shootings are a last resort. That does not appear, from this video, to be what happened here."

Melissa Waukaso, Hughes' half sister, watched the video after it was released.

"He did not deserve to be shot like that. He did exactly what they asked him to do and they shot him," Waukaso said.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter called the video heartbreaking, and offered his condolences to Hughes' family, the officers involved and the community.

"All of Saint Paul is united today in mourning Billy Hughes, and in wishing this terrible incident had never happened," Carter said in a statement.

WARNING: This video contains graphic content and profanity