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‘Don’t reach for the gun, man!': BWC video shows shooting that killed Calif. K-9

The K-9 officer yells for his dog to return to him; K-9 Sir walks slowly before falling to the ground a few yards in front of the officers, the video shows


San Diego Police Department

By Caleb Lunetta
The San Diego Union-Tribune

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Video released Thursday shows a confrontation last week between San Diego police and a man with a gun on the Mesa College campus — an incident that came to a head when one of the officers shot the man, who then shot a police K-9.

Both the gunman and the dog were killed.

Officer Addam Ansari fired a rifle at Benjamin Pickens, 33, fatally wounding him during the Aug. 2 incident on the college campus in San Diego’s Clairemont neighborhood, police said. Police said Pickens pointed his gun toward officers before Ansari fired his weapon.

Moments before the shots were fired, police released the dog, which was running toward Pickens. After he was shot, Pickens fired his handgun and mortally wounded the dog, a 4½-year-old Belgian Malinois named Sir.

The county Sheriff’s Department is handling the investigation under a reciprocal agreement with San Diego police, so neither department investigates its own officers or deputies when they shoot someone.

The edited video contains text from the Police Department that describes the incident from the officers’ point of view, images from the crime scene photographers and footage from body cameras worn by Ansari and another officer.

Ansari’s body-worn camera provides audio but not much can be seen in the footage because he was laying on his stomach when he fired the rifle.

Investigators said last week that Ansari shot Pickens after the gunman shot the police dog, but the video appears to indicate that the officer fired first after Pickens pointed his gun at officers.

Asked to clarify the discrepancy Thursday, sheriff’s investigators deferred to the timeline presented in the Police Department’s video.

The video begins with an audio recording of a call to 911 dispatchers by a man who said he had been shot at by two men in a white Tesla around 1:20 a.m. on Ben Street.

“I drove away from them” the man tells dispatchers in the audio clip. “They got out of the car and just started shooting.”

“There’s a gunshot in my front window and a gunshot in my back window,” the man tells dispatchers. The caller then says he is not injured and provides the Tesla’s license plate number.

Officers locate the Tesla a few blocks away from where the 911 caller said the first shooting occurred. According to the Police Department, the driver — later identified as Pickens — is the only one inside the car.

According to the department, Pickens drives away from the officers and onto the Mesa College campus. He crashes the Tesla into a center divider on Armstrong Circle and runs away from the vehicle.

Police spot Pickens walking west on Mesa College Circle. He stops walking as officers catch up to him.

The video cuts to Ansari’s body-worn camera footage as he walks up to a group of police officers who have their guns trained on Pickens, who is down the road from the officers.

An officer attempts to speak with Pickens over a megaphone.

“I can’t hear you buddy, and we got to work with you,” the officer says in the video. “We want to be able to help you.”

Ansari lays down on his stomach behind a police vehicle. His rifle is drawn, the video shows. The footage goes black because the officer’s front-facing camera now being pointed at the ground.

“He’s got his gun in his hand,” an officer is heard saying. “It’s in his right hand.”

Police can be heard in the video saying that Pickens, who is talking on a cellphone, is gesturing multiple times as if he’s reaching for something tucked underneath his arm.

“Don’t reach for the gun, man!” the officer on the megaphone says.

In text displayed in the video, police say Pickens ignores multiple commands from officers, then walks toward a parking lot.

The video cuts to the body-worn camera from the officer handling the police dog, identified in the video as “Canine Officer No. 1.” He is holding Sir back as officers shout that Pickens is walking away.

The handler is told to release the dog.

According to text in the video, Pickens turns and points his gun towards officers before the dog gets to him.

Ansari fires his rifle once. “Shots fired,” police officers are yell in the video.

Seconds later, Pickens is heard firing his handgun. Sir is then heard whimpering.

The K-9 officer yells for his dog to return to him. Sir walks slowly before falling to the ground a few yards in front of the officers, the video shows.

Pickens falls to the ground after being hit once in the chest, according to the Police Department. A second police dog is released to pull Pickens away from his nearby handgun.

Officers approach and place the man in handcuffs. They begin administering medical aid.

According to the video, Pickens is taken to a hospital, and the dog is rushed to a veterinary hospital.

Both died from their injuries.

Ansari has been employed by the San Diego Police Department for 11 years. He is assigned as a patrol officer in the Western Division.

Sir joined the force in March 2022, officials said. He was the second dog in the San Diego department to die on duty since 1994.

After the Sheriff’s Department completes its investigation, the District Attorney’s Office will review it — as it does all shootings involving law enforcement — to determine whether the deputies bear any criminal liability.

The Police Department will conduct an internal administrative investigation, officials said. The Commission on Police Practices is expected to review the incident as well.

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.

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