Officers with the Riverton Police Department will soon be equipped with body cameras. According to Police Chief Eric Murphy, the change comes in response to the recent deadly shooting of Anderson Antelope by a Riverton Police Officer.
Although the shooting took place in front of a Walmart in Riverton, Murphy said store surveillance footage did not capture the shooting or the encounter that led up to it. The lack of video evidence has led some in Fremont County to question police and eyewitness accounts that Antelope attacked the officer with a knife before he was shot, and Fremont County Attorney Pat Lebrun's determination that the officer's actions were lawful and necessary.
"The video does not show the shooting. It just doesn't. And I'm sorry that it doesn't. I wish it did, but it doesn't. It's not our fault. It's not Walmart's fault. It's nobody's fault. So, I just wish people would get past that," Murphy said.
Statements from city and county officials have referenced surveillance footage that is said to show Antelope driving in and out of the Walmart parking lot on a mobility scooter and the reactions of some shoppers to the eventual shooting. That footage has not been released to the public.
Due to city budget cuts, Murphy said his department has been unable to update some equipment, including a patrol car dash-cam video system that he called "obsolete." He added that the officer who shot Antelope purchased the stab-resistant vest that protected him against the alleged attack personally.
Funding for the 30 new body cameras comes from the Riverton Police Foundation, which holds community fundraisers to pay for police equipment "outside the normal budget."
"I can tell you, when [body camera technology] first came out, cops were totally against them. But what we've realized is that they've saved us way more than they've hurt us," Murphy said. "And so I wish [the Antelope shooting] would have been caught on video so that, for these people that have questions, we could answer those questions a little bit sooner and more articulately than we have."
The department will receive one body camera next week for an officer to use on a trial basis, and will equip its remaining officers with body cameras in early 2020.
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