In the moments before Salt Lake City police opened fire on a popular Glendale rapper, officers can be heard on body camera footage, shouting, “He’s got a gun!” and “He’s pointing, he’s pointing!”
But police on Wednesday confirmed that investigators found no gun at the scene or on Cody Belgard. A video shows his girlfriend telling police before the shooting that Belgard has no gun. And his family says his autopsy shows he was shot in the back.
Police on Wednesday released body camera footage from Nov. 9, showing officers shooting and killing Cody Belgard, as well as footage from a confrontation earlier that night, when Belgard struck a police cruiser while fleeing from officers who approached him in a Sugar House parking lot.
Belgard’s family has questioned why police shot Belgard, 30. Now, they say, the videos raise even more questions.
“The footage doesn’t match what they’re saying,” said Marvin Oliveros, Belgard’s older brother. “Everybody saw his back turned.”
Only two of the five officers who fired on Belgard were wearing cameras that captured video of Belgard before the shooting; two others were obstructed, and one officer either was not wearing a camera or didn’t have it turned on, said Sgt. Brandon Shearer. The videos that do show Belgard aren’t clear. He does appear to be facing away from the officer who first announces that Belgard has a gun.
But none of the cameras show Belgard a moment later, when another officer says, “He’s pointing,” and police open fire. Ten shots can be heard; Belgard’s family has said the autopsy showed he was shot twice in the back.
Police first encountered Belgard in a Sugar House parking lot earlier that night, Capt. Lance VanDongen said in a news conference Wednesday. He and his girlfriend were in “a vehicle that had fled from officers in a previous incident the week before,” VanDongen said. It is not clear whether Belgard or his girlfriend were involved in that previous encounter or why police were pursuing the car; police have declined to comment further while West Valley City investigates the shooting.
On the night of the shooting, officers approached the car at 7:37 p.m. in a crowded parking lot at a 2274 S. 1300 East. Body cam video shows them ordering Belgard and his girlfriend to put their hands up, and they soon begin shouting, “Take the hand out of your pocket.” The woman, who is in the driver’s seat, follows police orders to get out of the car and lie on the ground, as she cries, “Cody, just get out, please!”
“Hey! Hey! Does he have a gun?” an officer asks the woman, whom police did not identify.
“No, he does not have a gun,” the woman replies, shaking her head. “He doesn’t have a gun, nothing.”
Belgard moved to the driver’s seat and backed the car out of the parking space, hitting a police cruiser. He then backs the car around the cruiser, and an officer runs away from the front of the car as it whips around in his direction. Belgard then speeds out of the parking lot, the driver’s side door still open, as the woman yells at him to stop.
“Because the driver’s actions posed a significant threat to the public, several officers pursued the vehicle during a chase that ended at 800 N. Sir Philip Drive,” VanDongen said, reading from a prepared statement.
Officers can be heard reporting on a radio that Belgard was driving the car up to 90 mph through South Salt Lake and Murray on State Street, with the driver’s side door still open. Officers briefly lost sight of the car as it turned north but tracked it from Interstate 215 to Rose Park. One officer can be heard telling another that Belgard’s girlfriend said he had no gun.
“[She] could be lying,” he concludes.
A K-9 officer spotted Belgard outside of his friend’s house on a residential street in Rose Park, according to that friend’s sister, Nomi Armijo. Armijo has told The Tribune she was parked outside when Belgard walked toward her family’s house and then cut through the backyard when the K-9 officer appeared.
Officers then gathered at Sir Phillip Drive, a block away, to intercept him. Although video footage is grainy, officers can be heard ordering Belgard to show his hands and drop to his knees.
“Don’t be stupid, bro,” one says. “It’s not worth it, man.”
“He’s not listening. He’s keeping his hands in his pockets,” says another.
“Does someone have less-lethal?” one officer asks, referring to tools and tactics less deadly than a gun, such as stun guns, foam bullets and police dogs.
“I’ve got a K-9, I’m coming around,” says the K-9 officer, who is driving a block away.
Twenty seconds later, officers say Belgard has a gun and is pointing it. Gunfire breaks out, and Belgard is then seen lying on the ground and rolling over. One officer shouts, “Hey, he’s still got that gun! He still has the gun!”
Later, officers can be heard searching for a gun:
“Where’s our gun?”
“I don’t know.”
“I think it was a [expletive] cellphone.”
As officers handcuff Belgard and examine his wounds in the minutes after the shooting, Belgard can be heard crying repeatedly, “I can’t breathe.”
“I’m dying,” he tells police. An officer replies, “You’re all right, and you’re not dying. You’re OK. They’re gonna help you, they’re gonna help you.”
Belgard died that night at the hospital.
“They murdered my son,” said Belgard’s father, Mike Belgard. “You don’t even have any idea what it feels like to see a person as good as Cody get shot down like a dog. Something’s gotta be done with these police. They can’t just go around shooting people.”
The day before the shooting, Mike Belgard said, he and his son chatted about police shootings.
“I said, ‘Cody, what I’ve seen, these police officers shooting people — it scares me.’ He says, ‘Dad, they won’t shoot me.’ He says, ‘I have minimum crimes.’ I said, ‘Cody, you know you got retail theft and stuff. You gotta be careful.’ He walks out of the house, and the next day he gets shot.”
In recent years, Cody Belgard struggled with drug addiction, his family has said. He had faced drug possession and shoplifting charges — for thefts to support his addiction — but never had been accused of any violent crime.
Belgard’s behavior at the Sugar House parking lot can be chalked up to fear, Oliveros said.
“In situations like this, people get in a fight-or-flight mode,” Oliveros said. “What they’re trying to paint a picture of is he used that vehicle as a weapon. What we know is when they made contact with him [in Rose Park], he no longer had that vehicle in his possession. We know the female [passenger] specifically said he has no weapons, he has no guns. What we also know is that there was a K-9 seconds away. They had him contained, they had a dog on scene.
“They knew he had no violent history,” Oliveros continued. “They had no other reason to believe he had a weapon, other than this tactic that police use when they know they’re being videotaped, when they know there might be potential witnesses around. They just throw out things like ‘He has a weapon, he has a gun.’ They all said that, but yet we find no weapon and no gun. And those statements are what triggered five officers firing on this young man, a very talented, well-loved, nonviolent young man. … If this could happen to him, this could happen to any of your kids.”
Since Belgard’s death, Utah officers have shot and killed two people, including the driver who struck and killed South Salt Lake police officer David Romrell on Saturday. Police in Utah have shot 26 people so far this year, killing 16 — more than any other year in recent memory. Tribune records of shootings by police go back 15 years.