The aunt of the 27-year-old shot and killed by a Philadelphia police officer tells CNN Friday her family is feeling frustrated after the police department changed its initial account of the deadly incident during a news conference.
The Philadelphia police commissioner announced Wednesday that Eddie Irizarry was inside a vehicle when he was shot Monday by an officer, not outside, as police originally reported.
“The body-worn camera footage made it very clear what we initially reported was not actually what happened,” Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said during the news conference.
In an interview with CNN on Friday, Irizarry’s aunt, Zoraida Garcia, said the family is frustrated. “There’s a lot of anger, but also a lot of sadness,” Garcia said, adding, “They murdered my nephew. If you commit a crime, you deserved to be punished,” Garcia told CNN.
Commissioner Danielle Outlaw acknowledged the pain of the family and community members, saying, “I understand and want to acknowledge the hurt and confusion that family and community members can experience when details of investigations change – and especially when they change in a very public way.”
Outlaw also emphasized that “the decision to utilize deadly force is one of the most difficult and far-reaching decisions that an officer will ever face.”
Shortly after this week’s shooting in Philadelphia, Corporal Jasmine Reilly told reporters officers gave commands to Irizarry to drop a weapon while he was outside his vehicle.
Irizarry “lunged at the officers; one of the officers discharged his weapon multiple times,” Reilly said at the time.
But an updated timeline in a Tuesday news release said Irizarry was in a car when an officer shot multiple times into the vehicle.
The information stating Irizarry lunged at the officer was initially called in on police radio, Chief of Detectives Christine Coulter said.
The details released Monday were the best information available at the time, Outlaw said.
Garcia said the family believes there may have been a language barrier between Irizarry and the police because he did not speak English well.
He had moved from Puerto Rico to Philadelphia seven years ago, she explained.
The incident began around noon Monday when two officers saw a man driving erratically and going the wrong way down a one-way street, according to the news release.
When the man pulled into a parking spot, two officers approached the vehicle, Outlaw said.
One officer warned the other the man had a weapon, then the other officer shot multiple times into the car, according to the release.
Philadelphia police say the incident is now being investigated internally and that the body camera footage has been handed over to the District Attorney’s Office.
The officer who discharged the weapon has been placed on restricted leave as police and the District Attorney’s Office look into the incident and how the original version of events was communicated, according to a news release on Tuesday.
Two knives were found inside the car, Outlaw previously said – however she could not confirm whether Irizarry was holding the knives or whether a warning was given before the officer shot into the car.
Garcia said her nephew liked to work on cars and believed that may have been the purpose of the knives. “He liked to work on cars, and he would use the knives as tools when working on cars,” Garcia added.
Garcia said the family did plan to pursue legal action but she did not go into any more detail.
“As with all officer involved shootings, a full and thorough investigation will be conducted through the Philadelphia Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau and Officer Involved Shooting Investigation Unit. The PPD will work closely with the District Attorney’s Office to ensure an additional layer of transparency remains present,” the Philadelphia police said in a statement this week.