ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York’s attorney general released video Tuesday of a county sheriff’s deputy fatally shooting two Black teenagers in a fleeing car, raising questions about whether the officer needed to use deadly force to avoid being run over.
Attorney General Letitia James released the video as part of her office’s investigation into the fatal shooting last Wednesday of Dhal Apet, 17, and Lueth Mo, 15, by an Onondaga County Sheriff’s deputy. Deputy John Rosello was investigating a smoke shop burglary in the Syracuse area that morning and had responded to a call about people seen transferring items between two vehicles.
Rosello did not activate his body camera before the confrontation. But video shot by a surveillance camera across the street shows the deputy’s SUV speed into a small parking lot and use its front bumper to pin one of the cars against a row of tall bushes. The deputy gets out of his SUV and stands for just a moment in front of the car in which Apet and Mo were riding as it backs into the bushes, in an apparent attempt to escape.
With his gun drawn, Rosello then steps backward and to the side, retreating quickly as the car starts to move forward.
The deputy keeps his gun pointed at the car as it drives past him and accelerates away. It is unclear from the video when he starts firing and when he stops. The video has no audio and captures the scene at a distance.
Onondaga County Sheriff Tobias Shelley said at a news conference last Wednesday that the person driving the car was trying to run the deputy over. He said video from a resident showed the deputy was caught in a narrow space and that he had “nowhere to flee to.”
The video released by the attorney general doesn’t appear to show the deputy, who is white, trapped or unable to get away. He isn’t struck by the vehicle, though it passes close by him.
“These two teenagers should still be alive,” New York Civil Liberties Union assistant field director Deka Dancil said in a prepared statement. “It is clear from the footage that the officer needlessly escalated to fatal force, and did so with a rapidity that is too readily deployed against young Black New Yorkers.”
The sheriff stuck by his deputy.
“As I stated then and will again, I support Deputy Rosello,” he said in a prepared statement. “I also support our legal process in this country.”
He added that his office will continue to cooperate with the attorney general’s office “in any way we can.”
New York’s attorney general investigates all killings by law enforcement officers.
The NYCLU said the investigation should look into why the deputy failed to record the interaction.
The shooting came after a series of thefts in the area, starting with two vehicles stolen the night before in Syracuse. Those vehicles were linked to two subsequent smoke shop robberies early Wednesday in Oneida and suburban Syracuse.
The second vehicle at the scene drove off as Rosello arrived.
Apet and Mo were found dead in a car on a Syracuse street, more than a mile (1.6 kilometers) away. A third person believed to have been in the car when the teens were shot fled and has not been publicly identified.