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Bodycam video released in fatal St. Paul officer-involved shooting

Police Chief Todd Axtell is allowing the public to view the moments and sequence of events that led to the fatal shooting of 31-year-old Ronald Davis.

ST PAUL, Minn. — The final moments of a man's life are now public after the release of bodycam video in the officer-involved shooting of Ronald Davis.

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell released the footage Tuesday afternoon at a press conference after promising he would do so in the name of transparency. 

An emotional Axtell opened a news conference with the video up full, showing Officer Steven Mattson leaving his squad vehicle and immediately being attacked by a charging Davis. It is clear that Davis has an object in his right hand, one that appears to be a knife. Davis and the officer begin fighting, and Officer Mattson can be heard on the tape repeatedly yelling "Get away from me... drop the knife... drop the f---ing knife!" As he finishes yelling a gunshot can be heard. 

RAW: Bodycam footage shows fatal officer-involved shooting (Warning: Graphic content)

"This video was difficult to watch as you all just saw," said Chief Axtell after the video played. "The only solace I can take from this incident is that Officer Mattson was not seriously injured or killed. What I do know is this... his life will never, ever be the same. I remain hopeful that quickly releasing this video will allow us to move forward with some mature discourse about how such tragedies can (be presented) in the future without having to wade through the waters of irresponsible accusations of murder, calculated cries of injustice, and threats against one of my officers."  

The 31-year-old Davis was shot early the night of Sept. 15 after he rear ended a squad car at the intersection of Thomas Avenue West and North Griggs Street. Officer Steven Mattson told investigators from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) he got out of the squad, and was confronted by Davis. Mattson pulled his firearm and fatally shot the suspect. 

RELATED: 1 dead in St. Paul officer-involved shooting

St. Paul City Council Member Mitra Jalali Nelson posted on Twitter shortly after the fatal incident, calling for a quick release of bodycam footage. "I saw Mayor Carter earlier at Thomas and Griggs when he also joined us to check on community members," Nelson tweeted. "I told him then in person and directly that the #1 thing my constituents & advocates are asking for, and that I also echo, is the swift release of body cam footage ASAP."

Mayor Carter quickly echoed Nelson's request, and Chief Axtell promised he would make the footage available as soon as the BCA had completed the crucial parts of its investigation. 

RELATED: Protest and vigil held for man who died in St. Paul officer-involved shooting

Community activists did not seem satisfied with the chief's promise. A group of more than 60 protesters gathered outside the Western District headquarters last Sunday, one week after the shooting, to voice concerns over Davis' death and other officer-involved shootings that have occurred recently in Minnesota. Several people spoke about their experiences losing a family member at the hands of police.

Several at the demonstration said they don't believe Davis had a knife, and demanded the immediate release of all "unedited and unredacted video" to the family and the public, if permission was granted by his family.

After the police released body camera footage on Tuesday, civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong demanded additional video -- be it from dash cam, body camera, street camera or surveillance video. 

“We don’t see the full scope of what happened, we don’t know what happened after the fact," Levy Armstrong said "We don’t know what happened leading up to Ronald K. Davis being shot and killed by police.” 

Along with a coalition of activists, Levy Armstrong also called for the creation of an outside agency to investigate police shootings, citing a lack of trust in the BCA, local police and county attorneys. 

At Tuesday's news conference Axtell answered those attacking his department and officers, saying the tape clearly showed Officer Mattson had no choice but to defend himself against an immediate and violent act carried out by Davis. 

"Continuing to swim in a sea of lies and distorted facts will only keep us caught in the undertow of distrust," the chief stated. "Wearing a badge does not automatically make you wrong, any more than standing in a street with a megaphone automatically makes you right." 

"I look forward to moving forward with our entire community in good faith," Axtell continued, "to achieve the outcomes we all desire."

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter addressed the release of the footage in a press release Tuesday. “As the son of a longtime police officer, I can’t look at that video and imagine what else Officer Mattson could’ve been done,” Carter said.

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