While police and prosecutors see an officer reacting appropriately in the face of a volatile, uncertain situation, police watchdogs call what happened unnecessary, even criminal.
The video footage was released to MLive last week, nearly a year after Wilson’s death and a month after Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy ruled the shooting was justified.
‘Stay with us, ma’am’
Sirens scream as three Dearborn police officers are seen in the video surrounding Janet Wilson’s car near Fairlane Town Center mall. It’s late afternoon on Jan. 27, 2016.
“Stop the car! Shut the car off right now! Open the door!” police yell.
She does not.
Instead, less than 10 seconds after the commands begin, Wilson presses the gas pedal. She advances about a half-car length before a pistol cracks four times.
Dearborn Police Cpl. James Wade III pulls the trigger of his handgun repeatedly while backing away. An autopsy would later show that three bullets struck Wilson’s chest, and two penetrated her right arm.
Wade then utters an expletive. “F***,” he says, audibly shaken.
Wearing a knit hat, beige cargo pants and a black, hooded sweatshirt, Wade immediately holsters his weapon, pulls out his radio and repeats to dispatch, “shots fired, shots fired.”
Wilson’s car slowly rolls about 50 yards up the road, veering left into a curb. The driver’s side wheels climb onto the grass median.
Wade runs toward Wilson’s Chevrolet HHR. Two other officers, Stephen Dluzynski and Richard Townsend,- return to their drivers’ seats and quickly maneuver to the front of Wilson’s car, creating a wedge to stop its progress.
The dying woman apparently still has her foot on the gas. Smoke from burning rubber fills the air as tires spin in vain.
“10-2, send rescue; 10-2, send rescue,” an officer tells dispatch.
A few seconds later, there is the sound of shattering glass. Microphones pick up Wilson’s faint moans. She does not speak.
“You did what you had to do,” an officer outside the view of the dashcam says as they treat Wilson. “You did exactly what you had to do … You did what you had to do, brother.”
“Stay with us, ma’am,” it sounds like Wade and the other officer tell Wilson. “Ma’am, stay with us. It’s OK. We have help on the way.”
Seconds later, Wade seems to leave the immediate vicinity and is no longer heard in the video.
An officer repeatedly asks Wilson her name. A chorus of sirens nears as police shut down the road.
Wilson joins nearly 1,000 U.S. citizens fatally shot by police last year.