Two Beloit Police officers fired on the fleeing vehicle driven by Darrius Lowery-Baptiste because they felt one of the officers and other citizens in the downtown commercial district were in immediate danger, according to reports compiled by the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation.
Those reports and a squad car dash-camera video were obtained by the Beloit Daily News in response to the newspaper’s open records requests.
Police had been conducting surveillance of Darrius Lowery-Baptiste on the day he was fatally shot by officers, according to interviews given by the officers to state investigators.
Lowery-Baptiste was shot and killed by police on June 11 after officers boxed in his vehicle and attempted to arrest him near the corner of State Street and Grand Avenue in downtown Beloit.
Video of the incident was captured by the dash-camera of a Beloit squad car arriving on the scene just as it unfolded. The video shows one unmarked police vehicle in the front and another in the back of Lowery-Baptiste’s vehicle, a white Ford Taurus, attempting to prevent him from fleeing. Officers in the two vehicles had been watching Lowery-Baptiste and engineered the blocking maneuver in an attempt to take him into custody.
The entire incident takes about one minute, according to the time on the police camera.
Officer Brian Miller is heard shouting at Lowery-Baptiste to put his vehicle in park and that he was under arrest. All three officers at the scene had their firearms drawn at one point.
Sgt. Daniel Tilley was positioned at the driver’s side window of the vehicle and Officer Seth Hendricks was at the front passenger side window. Both Miller and Hendricks attempted to break the vehicle’s windows by kicking them.
Miller said Lowery-Baptiste told police “don’t shoot me.” Miller said no one was going to shoot him and told him to unlock his door and exit the vehicle. Lowery-Baptiste’s Ford Taurus then is seen trying to back up, striking the police vehicle at the rear. He then turns the wheel sharply to the left and accelerates toward Tilley, who jumps back to avoid being hit.
At that point, Tilley and Hendricks both fired their weapons multiple times at the vehicle. A majority of the shots were fired after the driver of the vehicle made it past the police officers.
Tilley said he believed his life was in “imminent danger.” Hendricks also said he believed Tilley’s life was at risk, along with the lives of others at the nearby stoplight intersection. Hendricks said he had noticed a group of people at the intersection of State and Grand, in the direction Lowery-Baptiste was attempting to flee. He said he believed Lowery-Baptiste would have hurt others in order to get away.
In the wake of the shots, the vehicle veers to the right and slams into the southwest building at the corner of Grand Avenue and State Street. The three officers then approach the vehicle as more squad cars begin to show up. Lowery-Baptiste was secured with handcuffs.
As Lowery-Baptiste’s clothing was searched a number of items were recovered, Hendricks said, including “several small baggies of white substance,” according to official reports.
Officers are heard telling Lowery-Baptiste to “hang in there,” “keep breathing” and “the ambulance is on its way.”
About five minutes into the video a fire truck and ambulance arrive on the scene, and place Lowery-Baptiste in the ambulance. The ambulance does not leave the scene for the entire 45-minute video.
Earlier reports indicated Lowery-Baptiste was pronounced dead on the scene.
When the ambulance arrived the handcuffs were removed to allow medical treatment. When Lowery-Baptiste was moved a gun was discovered.
The Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation conducted separate interviews of all three officers on the Thursday after the shooting.
Police had stepped up patrol presence after several shots-fired incidents occurred throughout the city in May and June, Miller said in his interview.
Miller told investigators during a June 7 briefing he received pictures and information on individuals believed to be involved in the shootings and “high risk to flee.” Lowery-Baptiste was one of those listed.
The individuals were believed to be armed, the report said.
Lowery-Baptiste had an active warrant out for him through the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, and was wanted by Beloit Police after his cell phone was recovered at one of the shooting locations.
Miller and Tilley both indicated during their interviews they were conducting surveillance of the Ford Taurus believed to be “associated” with Lowery-Baptiste on June 11.
Surveillance began around 4 p.m. at a home on Fifth Street where the Ford Taurus was located. Beloit Police Detectives Craig Johnson and David Hoffman and Ronald Betley from the Rock County Sheriff’s Safe Streets Task Force were leading the surveillance.
Miller told DCI investigators that around 5 p.m. the other officers had all left to end their shift, and only he and Tilley were on the scene conducting surveillance.
Tilley and Miller were preparing to end surveillance when Miller noticed Lowery-Baptiste’s vehicle traveling southbound on Fifth Street.
Miller followed the vehicle from Fifth Street until it reached the intersection at Grand Avenue and State Street. Tilley told investigators he was in the Tilley’s Pizza parking lot at the corner of Fourth Street and Portland Avenue when he saw Lowery-Baptiste traveling south on Fourth Street.
Tilley ended up in front of the vehicle near Grand and State and Miller was in the back. The officers decided to box the vehicle in because they believed Lowery-Baptiste would flee if they tried a normal traffic stop.
An autopsy indicated Lowery-Baptiste was hit up to six times by bullets. Three of the wounds were serious enough to be fatal, according to the autopsy conducted by Dr. Kristin Roman, deputy medical examiner for Dane County.
Parental discretion advised
This video is from a Beloit Police Department squad car’s dash-camera, at the scene of the June 11 shooting in downtown Beloit. This excerpt covers the beginning of the traffic stop through the arrival of emergency medical personnel. There is both video and audio of the events. The pictures are not gruesome, but they may be disturbing. The Beloit Daily News advises parental discretion.