MUSKOGEE — A non-compliant man carrying a large knife took one step toward an officer, who then fired gunshots that took him down in an encounter earlier this month, according to video released Thursday afternoon by the Muskogee Police Department.
The man, 44-year-old Sean Ellis, can be heard shouting "Thou shalt not kill" as he takes a step toward Officer James Moore, which was when Moore fired three gunshots. Ellis is stable in an undisclosed condition at a Tulsa-area hospital, according to police.
Muskogee police in a news release the day of the shooting characterized Ellis' movement as a "lunge" toward the officer. In a PowerPoint presentation released Thursday with the video offering an explanation of the officer's actions, the department instead used the phrase "started to move towards him."
The shooting took place about 7:45 a.m. Aug. 7 near North 32nd Street and West Broadway Street. Of the three shots Moore fired, at least two struck Ellis in his abdomen, police said.
The City of Muskogee offered its condolences to Ellis' family in the PowerPoint presentation.
"In viewing the recording of the incident it is evident that Mr. Ellis was suffering from some sort of mental episode," according to the statement. "Nonetheless, his actions and being armed with a knife, which he refused to drop, led to this unfortunate incident."
The encounter was prompted by a citizen flagging down Moore to express concern about a white man in a red shirt and a cowboy hat who was acting strangely and possibly carrying a firearm, police said.
Video of the shooting was captured by a camera attached to Moore's glasses.
In the video, Moore follows Ellis on foot, repeatedly asking him to stop or put his hands in the air or get on the ground. Ellis continues walking around the side of a building, and Moore's gun can be seen in his right hand as he pursues.
Ellis continues to walk away and pulls out a knife. Overall, Moore follows Ellis for about 1 minute and 15 seconds before Ellis stops and turns to face him. Ellis talks loudly and shouts as Moore commands him to drop the knife and not move closer to him before the shots ring out.
Afterward, Ellis can be heard saying, "Oh, God help me, I can't move."
The police department stated that a Taser wouldn't have been appropriate in that situation because "a suspect brandishing a knife is considered an immediate threat of serious bodily harm or death," with officers trained that the appropriate response is deadly force.
A second officer who arrived doesn't carry a Taser, but police didn't state if Moore carried one.
The police department said Moore couldn't back away because Ellis was near several businesses and standing next to a city street close to U.S. 69.
"Taking all of these factors into consideration Officer Moore could not back away and allow an innocent civilian to potentially be harmed," according to the department.
Police stated that Ellis disobeying commands and taking a step toward Moore constituted obstruction and assault with a deadly weapon, respectively.
Moore was placed on routine paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.