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2/8/2018
Family of man killed by police questions video

By RACHEL D'ORO
Associated Press

ANCHORAGE — Relatives of a man fatally shot by an Alaska police officer said Wednesday they have more questions than answers after viewing videos from the officer's body and patrol car cameras.

Micah McComas' family said in a statement that they find it suspicious the videos did not capture the Oct. 1 shooting.

They also wondered how five shots were fired if Seward Police Officer Matthew "Eddie" Armstrong was knocked down as claimed. The family has said McComas' body had seven bullet holes, including two identified as exit wounds.

Armstrong was recently cleared by the state in the shooting of McComas, who was placed in the back of the cruiser and managed to start driving it away. The state attorney general's office said it determined it was reasonable for Armstrong to use deadly force in the shooting.

McComas' sister, Krista Smith of Greenville, South Carolina, said the family wants more information from the city of Seward and the state.

Smith also said they were told they would be able to view the video of the officer statement to Alaska State Troopers, but were not given access to it during this week's visit to Anchorage. The family also believes the dash cam appears to have a cut or splice in the footage.

"Really, all we're asking for is the truth," she said. "We feel like, if the officer has been exonerated, that shouldn't be a hard ask."

Seward City Attorney William Earnhart said the city is cooperating with the family's attorney to provide access to all the evidence as it is released by the state.

"The video provided by Seward has not been edited; and as is clear in the video, the body camera was knocked off of Officer Armstrong and continued to record," he wrote in an email. "The city will make no further public statements and will not litigate this matter through the press."

The state stands behind its decision in the matter, Alaska Department of Law spokeswoman Cori Mills said in an email to The Associated Press.

"Please remember that our review focuses on whether criminal charges are appropriate, not whether the behavior was appropriate as a general matter," Mills wrote.

Authorities said Armstrong handcuffed McComas and put him in the back of the car after drugs were found in his wallet during a traffic stop.

McComas somehow got into the car's front seat and tried to drive off while the officer was outside. Authorities have said McComas was officially detained, but not under arrest although the officer read him his Miranda rights.

Armstrong stated that he knew that McComas was attempting to steal the patrol car with firearms in the trunk when he decided to shoot, according to officials, who said the officer also was concerned about his safety and the safety of McComas' female passenger, who was standing near the car McComas had been driving.

In video footage released to the AP as part of a records request, Armstrong appears calm and in control in the video and McComas is initially relaxed but appears to become agitated when the drugs are found and he is placed in handcuffs in the back of the idling patrol car.

The footage from the officer's body camera appears to show headlights just before the officer is knocked over by the moving patrol car. The video does not show the shooting but gunfire can be heard on the audio plus the officer calling out on his radio that shots were fired.

McComas died later at a hospital, and the autopsy report showed that he tested positive for amphetamine, methamphetamine and diazepam, officials said.

Seward is city of about 2,800 people 90 miles (140 kilometers) south of Anchorage, on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula.

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Follow Rachel D'Oro at https://twitter.com/rdoro