Chief Bobby Dodd, third from left, speaks with police officers near the scene of an officer-involved shooting just after midnight Friday morning, April 13, 2012. Police raided an illegal gambling operation just off Gunbarrel Road around midnight. Most of the participants were given citations, but one was wounded after producing a weapon.Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Chattanooga police showed video footage from a police-involved shooting of an armed suspect last week to correct any misgivings circulating in the community that could fuel racial tensions, said Police Chief Bobby Dodd.
"When you have as much gang activity we have going on, we have some gun violence and things going on, with the Bessie Smith Strut -- the issue of that coming up. Summer is coming up. I don't want this information getting out to the public to fester the next six months to a year before the truth's actually put out," Dodd said Wednesday.
Clifford Billups, 32, a black man and the owner of Herman's Soul Food on Brainerd Road, was shot April 4 when police raided a high-stakes poker operation in an office on Gunbarrel Road. A white police officer shot Billups, after he pointed a handgun at police, the video shows.
On Wednesday at the police department, Dodd noted that, in the days after the raid, reports were circulating that Billups was only catering the game and, when police burst in, he believed it was a robbery and fled out the back, where he was shot.
Billups' attorney also said his client was shot in the back. The wound was not life-threatening.
"We can't just let lies go unchallenged and let citizens think this is what we're doing at the police department," Dodd said.
Surveillance video from the game, which took place in ATC Healthcare at 1618 Gunbarrel Road, shows Billups was a participant in the poker game. Police said players were eating food from Chili's and Firehouse Subs, not Herman's.
No audio was present on the video, but it's expected to be in place when it's entered into evidence in court.
The footage shows Billups standing up next to a table where one poker game is being played and picking up another poker player's .40-caliber Glock handgun. He feeds a bullet into the firing chamber, an action known as racking, then runs out the back door as police make their way in.
In the video, police are wearing tactical vests with "POLICE" labels on the front and back. Most of the poker players realize it's a raid and hold their hands up.
"We need to see the video," said Robin Flores, a defense attorney who is representing Billups. "These guys got robbed in the past. When they hear all this noise at the door, my fellow doesn't know what's going on."
In the video, four people at the game, including Billups, run out the back door and jump off a four-foot landing. Billups, who is wearing flip-flops, lands with his arms out, trying to balance himself. The pistol is in his right hand. He racks it again and it's pointed in the officers' direction.
Two to three officers already were waiting behind the complex, Dodd said, pointing to where they would be standing outside the camera's view.
"(Billups) stops, reloads it again and he's shot right there," Dodd said as the footage played on a flatscreen TV.
Crime Suppression Unit Investigator John Patterson, 29, fires three rounds, with one striking Billups, going completely through his lower right side. Billups appears to flinch slightly as bullet pierces him, then turns and runs to a nearby bank, where he falls to the ground, rolls on his back and holds his hands up. By that point, he has dropped the gun.
Flores, who also provided photos of Billups' wounds once they were treated at Erlanger hospital, said his client was shot in the back while running away.
Either way, Patterson, who has worked for the department since 2005, was justified in shooting Billups, Dodd said, regardless of where Billups was injured.
"Once [Billups] elevated it to a deadly force situation, deadly force is justified," Dodd said.
Once he's on the ground, however, Billups still has a second gun that he brought to the game, a .38-caliber handgun in his pants, which video footage shows him emptying out and displaying before other players during the poker game inside. Police find the second gun when patting Billups down.
Police said 17 men were involved in the poker game. Four were charged with gambling and drug-related charges, while the rest received gambling citations, which are misdemeanors.
Billups has been charged with attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault, unlicensed carrying or possessing of a weapon, gambling and possession of a gambling device. His next court date on the charges is set for June 19.
He has two other criminal cases pending in court, including an aggravated assault where he reportedly got into a fight over a woman. He also faces a charge of statutory rape.
William Evans, a security guard for the game, John Cagle, who was the dealer, and Kenny Higdon, who was the business owner, were in Hamilton County Sessions Court Wednesday. All had their cases passed to June 19 for preliminary hearings.