Bodycam video made public Monday, Dec. 14, showed the final moments of former NFL player Ekom Udofia’s life.
Udofia, 33, was shot and killed by officers during a Nov. 30 encounter in Phoenix, Arizona. The man was armed with a weapon and refused to relinquish it even after he was shot several times by officers. The gun later proved to be a BB gun.
The Phoenix Police Department released bodycam from all four officers involved, security camera footage from an adjacent parking lot, along with details about the shooting and a 911 call that prompted police to respond.
One officer could be heard on the video pleading with Udofi to drop the weapon as he approached a police SUV brandishing the toy gun.
“Please drop the gun, dude,” the officer said. “Please! Drop the gun, man. Please, please do not make me shoot you. Please do not make me shoot you.”
Moments later, the officer and his partner opened fire as Udofia collapsed to the ground.
It was just the first volley of shots. Udofia refused to drop his weapon even after being wounded. Police used stun bags and baton rounds and pepper balls to subdue him. But when those non-lethal methods failed, officers shot Udofia several more times.
He later died after being rushed to an area hospital.
Udofia grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, and was an All-America defensive lineman at Chaparral High School before playing at Stanford University. He played on several NFL practice squads and had brief stints with the Cincinnati Bengals and New Orleans Saints.
He was described by friends as a “gentle giant” with a kind heart and a “glowing smile,” according to ABC 15. But court records show Udofia suffered from mental health problems that contributed to a criminal past.
An internal police department investigation is underway. The shooting is also being reviewed by the Maricopa County Attorney General’s Office. It was not immediately clear if mental illness factored into the Nov. 30 incident, but many have speculated online that Udofia was in the midst of a psychological episode.
“Conclusions about whether the actions of the officers are consistent with department policy and the law will not be made until all the facts are known and the investigation is complete,” said Sgt. Mercedes Fortune, a police department spokesperson.
The Nov. 30 incident took place about 2 a.m. near the intersection of Indian School Road and 23rd Avenue. Someone called 911 and reported a “big guy dancing in the middle of the street” and jumping in front of passing cars.
The caller said he saw Udofia in a convenience store two hours prior and he was behaving normally. But during the predawn incident, the caller said the man appeared to be high on some kind of drug.
Udofia was walking in the middle of the road when the first two officers arrived on scene. The officers noticed he was holding the BB gun when he was about 35 feet away and they took cover behind the doors of the Chevy Tahoe police cruiser.
The officers ordered Udofia to drop the weapon several times but he continued to encroach.
“Dude, I got to shoot him, bro,” one of the officers told his partner when Udofia reached the Tahoe’s front bumper. Five shots rang out and Udofia fell to the ground, groaning in pain. But he continued to hold the BB gun and refused to toss it away, Fortune said.
“Drop the gun, dude,” an officer yelled at him. “Come on, don’t make me shoot you again. Drop it.”
Two backup officers showed up minutes later and tried to get the BB gun away from Udofia. About six minutes after the initial gunshots were fired, officers fires bean bag rounds and rubber bullets at Udofia. He still did not release the BB gun.
Moments later, Udofia could be seen on video raising up off the ground and pointing the toy gun at officers. That’s when six more gunshots rang out.
The gun finally fell out of his grasp. But Udofia continued to crawl toward the gun. Police used 26 pepper ball shots to subdue him then sent a canine in to drag him away from the gun. Officers moved in and handcuffed Udofia, then rendered medical aid until paramedics arrived on scene.
The police department did not release the names of the four officers involved. Three were assigned to the agency’s Cactus Park Precinct — with two, three and 13 years of experience, respectively. The other was a canine tactical officer with 21 years under his belt.