Attorneys for the family of a Mattapan man fatally shot last year by police are asking a judge to examine new evidence they say shows a Boston police officer who fired his weapon was untruthful about wearing a body camera.
In a motion filed Tuesday in federal court, attorneys for Juston Root’s family allege that officer David Godin lied to investigators — and later in a sworn statement — when he said he was not wearing his body-worn camera during the Feb. 7, 2020 encounter.
Godin was one of six officers to fire on Root, who acted oddly and allegedly flashed a weapon outside Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Root, who had a history of mental illness, then led police on a 4-mile car chase, and was killed minutes later in a hail of police gunfire in Chestnut Hill.
The Root family last August filed a wrongful death suit against the six officers involved, as well as the city of Boston, alleging excessive force, improper training, and more. Authorities have released footage from several police-worn body cameras, but not from Godin.
In a new motion in the lawsuit, the family pointed to an interview with investigators for the Boston Police firearms investigations unit five days after the shooting, Godin said that his department-issued body camera was in his duty bag, and not affixed to his body, during the incident, according to a transcript of the interview.
Later, in a statement signed under the penalties of perjury, Godin again denied wearing a body camera at any point during his interaction with Root, records show.
“I was not wearing my (body-worn camera) during either the vehicle pursuit or the Chestnut Hill shooting, and did not activate it at any time,” he said.
But video and screenshots submitted by Root family attorneys appear to show an officer identified in the suit as Godin wearing a camera on his chest in the moments immediately following the shooting.
Seconds later, he appears to remove something from his chest area, and toss it into a nearby police cruiser. When he is next seen, a holder for the camera is visible, but it does not appear to contain a camera.
The family is now asking a judge to determine what happened to any video footage from Godin’s body camera and examine the steps taken by the department to recover the camera and preserve its footage.
“If the City failed to fulfill its obligations to collect, review, and preserve [body camera] footage —particularly from Defendant Officer Godin’s [body-camera] — then any footage that may have been recorded was likely deleted,” the motion states.
Citing the ongoing litigation, spokesmen for both the Boston Police Department and City of Boston declined comment Wednesday. Godin declined comment through a police spokesman.
Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey has ruled the shooting justified, calling the officers’ decision to fire “objectively reasonable.”
Godin, a veteran officer, was responding to a report of a man in the area with a gun, when he encountered Root on a sidewalk near Brigham and Women’s Hospital. As Root pulled what appeared to be a gun from inside his coat, Godin pulled his own gun and fired, stumbling backward and falling to the ground.
Root took off in a car and Godin was part of a multi-vehicle chase that ended when Root crashed near a Chestnut Hill shopping center. He stumbled into a nearby parking lot. Moments later, Godin, along with four fellow Boston police officers and a state trooper, shot at Root after, they said, he reached for what appeared to be a gun inside his jacket.
The weapon was later determined to be a B.B. gun.
In addition to last year’s civil lawsuit, Root’s family has also appealed to public officials — including Attorney General Maura Healey — to re-examine the case.
“What can no longer be denied is the overwhelming evidence to support the reopening of Juston Root’s case,” Ashley Fox, a spokeswoman for the Root family, said in a statement Wednesday. “We hope our elected officials won’t turn a blind eye to the facts but instead take notice, take action, and undertake an independent investigation immediately.
“This is an opportunity for real leadership and real accountability,” she added. “Juston, the Root family, and the public deserve no less.”
Dugan Arnett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.