Body-cam video released after police fatally shoot Riverdale Park man

Body-camera footage from multiple Riverdale Park police officers was released Tuesday by the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, showing the moments before 75-year-old Bryan Coupal, a reportedly suicidal man, was fatally shot by an officer.

The attorney general’s Independent Investigations Division, which was created last year as part of a statewide push for police reform, published the footage on YouTube as part of its transparency protocol and ongoing review of the Sept. 19 shooting. The division investigates all incidents in which someone is killed during an interaction with police.

The division had previously identified the officer who shot Coupal as Chad Sunday, who has been on paid administrative leave since the fatal encounter.

Md. officials identify Riverdale Park officer, man he fatally shot

The videos, reviewed by The Washington Post, show at least four Riverdale Park police officers spending nearly 30 minutes calmly speaking with Coupal on the front stoop of the man’s home in the 4700 block of Oglethorpe Street.

The officers had been dispatched there just before 3 p.m. to investigate at least two calls from people — one of them a doctor — who said Coupal was suicidal and had access to firearms. Coupal was home alone when officers arrived, officials said at the time of the shooting.

Officials released body-camera footage from Sunday as well as from another officer who was at the house. The videos show the second officer, who the attorney general’s office did not identify, sitting in his police cruiser outside Coupal’s home and calling the man on his phone.

The officer identifies himself, confirms Coupal is home and asks the man to step outside so he can confirm he is safe and well. Coupal, appearing confused, tells the officer he is okay and says he needs to run an errand.

“I want to make sure you’re okay,” the officer tells Coupal.

“Why would you think I wasn’t okay?” Coupal asked.

Still on the phone, the officer explains that police received a call that he might be in danger and assures Coupal that he’ll explain who called as soon as he comes out of the house. Eventually the older man opens his front door, wearing jeans, a tucked in blue button-up shirt, glasses and a watch. The responding officer and Sunday spend the next 25 minutes calmly answering Coupal’s questions, reassuring him he is not in trouble and repeatedly asking him if he needs help or intends to harm himself.

“I want to make sure that you’re okay,” the unidentified officer said. “You’re not in trouble or anything, you didn’t do anything illegal, we’re not here to arrest you or anything like that. We just want to make sure you’re okay.”

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Over and over, between occasional bouts of prolonged silence, the man calmly tells the officers he is fine.

The officers then explain the calls they’d received, telling Coupal that his doctor had said he had written her a letter saying he was worried the FBI was trying to harm him. He acknowledged he wrote the letter, the video shows, but again said he didn’t want to hurt himself.

Officers also told Coupal they’d received a call reporting that the man was planning to drop his cat off at the veterinarian, where the animal would be safe, “because you had the intention to harm yourself.”

Coupal told officers he planned to take the cat to the vet because she’d become too much of a burden to look after. When officers pressed Coupal further, he repeated several times he had an errand to run.

Officers said they couldn’t release him until they were able to determine he was safe.

Officers asked Coupal if he had firearms in the house, and he told them he had three guns — all legally registered to him.

In the moments before the encounter quickly escalated, the video shows Sunday gently reassuring Coupal.

“Listen if you need help, buddy, we’ll get the help that you need,” Sunday says. “Again we’ll work through this, but we all have troubles in our lives, sometimes big and sometimes small, and they may amount in our head to a lot, all right? We’re here to help you.”

About 25 minutes into the interaction, Coupal sits on the bottom steps of a short staircase leading up to the second floor of his home. Soon after, without speaking, the man stands up, turns around, and starts slowly walking up the steps.

With increasing urgency, video shows Sunday repeating, “Sir, stay down here for me.”

Coupal, still moving slowly, pauses at the top of the stairs before turning right into a hallway and left into a bedroom, according to Sunday’s body-camera footage. Within seconds, the video shows, Sunday climbed the stairs, drew his gun and fired multiple times into the bedroom. Coupal had a gun in his hand, the video shows.

Body-camera footage from one of the other officers shows a gun beside Coupal’s body as police rendered aid while waiting for emergency medics. Coupal was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead, officials said.

“Any loss of life is devastating and this is a terrible situation for everyone involved,” Sunday’s attorney, Devon Miller, said in a statement. “An investigation by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office and Maryland State Police is ongoing which we hope will be resolved soon. We hope the findings of that investigation will support our belief that Officer Sunday was legally justified in responding as he did in a difficult circumstance.”

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