Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Richard Lee Richards shooting

Tucson police officers respond to an officer-involved shooting in which a 61-year-old wheelchair-bound man was shot nine times in the back and side after allegedly shoplifting a toolbox from a Lowe's home improvement store on November 29, 2021. (Photo: Tucson Police Department)

'Indefensible': Outrage Over Man in Wheelchair Fatally Shot in the Back by Arizona Cop

Richard Lee Richards was shot nine times in the back and side by a Tucson officer, who has since been fired, earlier this week.

Brett Wilkins

Noting that up to half of all fatal U.S. police use-of-force incidents involve people with disabilities, rights advocates on Thursday voiced serious concerns over what they called the "unacceptable" killing of a wheelchair-bound Arizona man by a Tucson police officer who shot the victim nine times in the back on Monday evening.

"The fact that Mr. Richards was a person with a disability is of particular concern because persons with disabilities are more likely to die in an encounter with law enforcement than the general population."

Video released by the Tucson Police Department shows TPD officer Ryan Remington walking behind 61-year-old Richard Lee Richards, who is moving at low speed through the parking lot of a Lowe's home improvement center in his motorized wheelchair after being accused of shoplifting a toolbox from the store and brandishing a knife at employees.

As Richards slowly heads back toward the store entrance, Remington and another officer, Stephanie Taylor, order him to stop. Richards refuses, and Remington fires eight shots from his handgun at the man's back. Remington briefly pauses as Richards slumps forward in his wheelchair; the officer then fires a ninth shot. Remington then roughly handcuffs Richards, who is lying unresponsive on the ground in the store's entrance.

"The fact that Mr. Richards was a person with a disability is of particular concern because persons with disabilities are more likely to die in an encounter with law enforcement than the general population," the Arizona Center for Disability Law and DIRECT Center for Independence wrote in a letter to Tucson Mayor Regina Romero and members of the City Council on Thursday.

"Persons with disabilities are often subject to excessive force and discrimination in their encounters with law enforcement because of bias and stigma regarding disability, whether explicit or implicit," the groups continued.

Romero called Remington's actions "unconscionable and indefensible."

"It is moments like this that test our resolve to ensure justice and accountability," she said in a statement Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, TPD Chief Chris Magnus said he is "deeply troubled" by Remington's actions, whose "use of deadly force in this incident is a clear violation of department policy."

"As a result, the department moved earlier today to terminate Officer Remington," the chief stated.

The advocacy groups' letter cites Remington's "lack of ability to de-escalate the situation" as a primary area of concern. The officer's lawyer, Mike Storie, told media outlets that his client was "trying to talk this guy down and de-escalate" the situation.

The attorney said that Remington "did have a Taser, but in his mind, he couldn't use it because he didn't feel he had the proper spread to deploy it, with the wheelchair between him and Richards."

"Police work is messy at times," Storie added.

However, the groups' letter argues that Remington "used excessive force against an individual with a disability who had his back turned to the officer."

"Situations like this one play out all over the country, in Arizona, and now Tucson," the letter says. "TPD touts on its website that it is a 'progressive police department, engaged in community policing,' as well as being one of just two police departments in the largest 100 cities in the United States to initiate all of the '8 Can't Wait' policies promoted by Campaign Zero's Use of Force Project."

The "8 Can't Wait" reforms include requiring law enforcement officers to de-escalate, warn, and "exhaust all alternatives" before shooting suspects.

"This particular incident met none of those measures," the letter states. "And, any training TPD officers have received put to question the fidelity of the department, especially since this is the second incident in a year in which a TPD officer did not de-escalate a situation concerning a person with a disability."

"These situations are unacceptable," the letter stresses, "especially for a police department that prides itself on being an integral part of the community."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Despite Housing Crisis, Mississippi May Return Up to Millions in Federal Rent Aid to DC

"For them to suggest people like me aren't working? It's a slap in the face," said one woman affected by the end of the pandemic assistance program. "It's very insulting and degrading."

Brett Wilkins ·


80% of US Voters Across Party Lines Support Expanding Social Security

"With Republicans threatening to cut benefits—and worse, eliminate the program entirely—Dems need to make clear they're fighting to protect and expand benefits."

Jessica Corbett ·


Rich Nations Again Accused of Vaccine Hoarding as UK OKs Moderna Omicron Booster

"While countries like the U.K. buy updated vaccines for their fourth doses, people in low- and middle-income countries are fighting today's variants with yesterday's vaccines."

Brett Wilkins ·


With Trumpian Claims of Cheating, Starbucks Demands Halt to Union Elections

"Unfortunately, it's now in vogue for the losers of some elections nationwide to attempt to reverse elections by any means they think are necessary," said Starbucks Workers United.

Jake Johnson ·


Richest Country on Earth to One of Its Poorest: We're Keeping the Money We Stole From You

A foreign affairs columnist called the move by the Biden administration a "shortsighted, morally unconscionable, and potentially calamitous decision for a country on the cusp of universal poverty."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo