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96 shots fired in a fatal traffic stop. Here’s what the bodycam footage shows

By Omar Jimenez and Holly Yan, CNN

Chicago (CNN) — Newly released bodycam footage reveals the mayhem that unfolded in a residential neighborhood when Chicago police fired as many as 96 bullets toward a man during a traffic stop, killing the 26-year-old and raising questions about whether officers used excessive force.

While a preliminary investigation suggests the driver opened fire on officers first, his family and attorneys question why plain-clothed officers swarmed Dexter Reed’s car with guns drawn and fired dozens of shots at him.

The fatal encounter happened in the city’s Garfield Park neighborhood on March 21. Several graphic bodycam videos were released Tuesday by Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

Across the country, police bodycam footage has played an increasing role in raising awareness and understanding about officer-involved shootings.

Such evidence has been used to help convict some officers of crimes, while other officers have avoided criminal charges after the release of bodycam footage.

While the disturbing videos from Chicago bring more clarity to what happened, they also raise a plethora of new questions.

What the videos show

In one video, an officer wearing a hooded jacket, a baseball cap and a tactical vest with a badge on it approaches the driver of a white vehicle with dark-tinted windows.

“Roll the window down. Roll the window down,” the officer tells the driver. The driver initially rolled his window down but then kept rolling it back up.

“What are you doing?” the officer asks. “Don’t roll the window up. Do not roll the window up!”

The officer pulls on the driver’s door handle – which appears to be locked – and then draws a gun. “Unlock the doors now! Unlock the doors now!” the officer screams as another officer shouts the same demands.

The driver apparently says, “OK, I’m trying to.”

Seconds later, as the officer retreats from the vehicle, gunfire breaks out.

Dozens of gunshots are then heard in rapid succession.

Other bodycam videos show at least two other officers firing toward Reed from across the street in the residential neighborhood. Both of those officers paused to reload their guns.

After the barrage of gunfire ends, Reed’s body is found lying face down behind the vehicle.

“He started shooting at us,” an officer said in one of the videos.

About a minute later, an officer examines Reed’s bullet-ridden car.

“The gun’s right there,” the officer says, shining a flashlight into the vehicle.

One officer was shot in the wrist during the gunfire and was hospitalized in good condition, Chicago police said.

Now, multiple agencies are investigating whether the officers’ actions were justified.

The traffic stop stemmed from a seat belt violation, agency says

“Preliminary reports indicate that this incident began when five Chicago Police officers assigned to an 11th District tactical unit engaged in a traffic stop of Dexter Reed, Jr. for purportedly not wearing a seatbelt,” the Civilian Office of Police Accountability said in a statement Tuesday.

COPA is the city agency responsible for investigating allegations of police misconduct and all police shootings.

“Upon stopping Mr. Reed, multiple officers surrounded his vehicle while giving verbal commands. When Mr. Reed did not comply with these commands, officers pointed their firearms at Mr. Reed and ultimately there was an exchange of gunfire which left Mr. Reed dead and an officer shot in the forearm,” COPA said.

“Review of video footage and initial reports appears to confirm that Mr. Reed fired first, striking the officer and four officers returned fire,” the office said.

It was not immediately clear from CNN’s review of bodycam footage who fired first.

“Available preliminary evidence also confirms that officers returned fire approximately 96 times over a period of 41 seconds, including after Mr. Reed exited his vehicle and fell to the ground,” COPA said.

“Mr. Reed was struck by gunfire multiple times and was transported to the hospital and later pronounced deceased. A gun was recovered on the front passenger seat of Mr. Reed’s vehicle.”

‘That is nothing but plain murder to me’

Reed’s family members and their attorneys said they can’t understand why the officers – several of whom were wearing plain clothes with their tactical vests – swarmed his car with guns.

“Dexter was pulled over for failing to wear his seat belt. Now this leaves many, many questions,” attorney Steven Hart said. “Why were tactical officers jumping out of an unmarked police car with their guns drawn for a simple traffic violation of not wearing a seatbelt?”

Reed’s uncle Roosevelt Banks said he would panic in that scenario.

“If I was in that situation, I would be terrified. I wouldn’t know how to … react other than to protect myself,” Banks said after watching the police footage.

“After he was shot up … you added clips to your gun? That is nothing but plain murder to me.”

But the president of a Chicago police union, the Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge #7, defended the officers’ response.

“Of course we have a clear defense of our officers’ actions,” John Catanzara Jr. wrote in an email to CNN.

What happens next

“This shooting remains under investigation by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) with the full cooperation of the Chicago Police Department,” the police department said in a statement Tuesday. “We cannot make a determination on this shooting until all the facts are known and this investigation has concluded.”

It’s not clear whether any of the officers involved in the shooting will face criminal charges, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said Tuesday.

“It will be our job, based on the totality of the evidence, to determine whether the use of force in this case was beyond that force which is allowable under the law,” Foxx said.

“Our Law Enforcement Accountability Division – also called LEAD – will carefully examine the totality of the circumstances and determine whether the force used here by the officers was warranted or constitute grounds for criminal charges.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Jack Hannah and Cheri Mossburg contributed to this report.

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