The day after the Baton Rouge Police Department announced it would not yet release the body and dash camera video from an Aug. 7 officer-involved shooting, Police Chief Murphy Paul explained the rationale behind that decision: The video does not exist. 

Paul said Tuesday — three weeks after the initial traffic stop-turned-shooting — that neither the officer's body camera nor the front dash camera were turned on during the incident. However, he said the police vehicle's rear camera caught some audio, but no video, and that a bystander provided some video of the initial traffic stop. 

Paul clarified that he also decided against releasing that audio or the bystander's video, citing ongoing administrative and criminal investigations. 

"In certain instances the release of critical incident evidence, absent a thorough examination of the evidence, could compromise investigative efforts," Paul wrote in a statement released Tuesday. "We will release the footage in question at the appropriate time once we determine that releasing the critical incident video evidence is in the public’s best interest."

On Aug. 7, Baton Rouge police officer Yuseff Hamadeh conducted a traffic stop about 6:30 p.m. after spotting a vehicle without a license plate on North 16th Street, officials have said. After the vehicle stopped, the driver ran away, prompting Hamadeh to chase him. During the foot chase, police have said, the man fired a shot at Hamadeh, and then Hamadeh returned fire, also firing one shot. No one was injured in the shooting. 

Three days after the shooting, Raheem Howard, 21, was arrested in the incident. He was booked on attempted murder of a police officer and illegal use of a weapon and currently is being held in Parish Prison on $90,000 bond. During his arrest, Howard called publicly for the release of any footage of the incident, claiming it would show he did not have a gun and did not fire at the officer. 

Hamadeh was placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting. However, BRPD spokesman Sgt. Don Coppola Jr. said Tuesday that Hamadeh has returned to work on restricted duty.

Hamadeh was also the officer in a June 2017 shooting that followed a traffic stop, this one fatal. In that incident, police said, Jordan Frazier, the passenger of the vehicle stopped, pointed a gun at officers and Hamadeh fired his weapon. There was no video of that incident: Hamadeh did not yet have a body camera and his vehicle had no dash camera. 

In August 2017, Baton Rouge Police outfitted all officers with body-worn cameras. The policy the department instituted then states that body worn camera recorders "shall be utilized to record the following types of events when safe to activate: traffic stops, pursuits, person and vehicle searches, physical or verbal confrontations, use of force incidents and all calls for service, including backup."

"What is the point of having a body cam policy?" asked Ronald Haley Jr., the attorney for Howard. "It’s only a soundbite. In action, it does not work. … I’m still hopeful that the truth will come out, but this definitely hurts."

Haley contends his client was not armed and did not shoot at the officer. 

Coppola said Tuesday he did not tell an Advocate reporter that no weapon had been found after the shooting, as the newspaper had reported earlier in the day. He said he was not authorized to talk about an ongoing investigation. However, he would neither confirm nor deny if a weapon has been recovered. 

This Aug. 7 officer-involved shooting was the first opportunity for Paul to implement his new Public Release of Critical Incident Recordings policy, which gives him the discretion to release any audio or video recordings from officer-involved shootings or other high-profile cases involving officers. The policy gives the chief 12 days to determine if the evidence will be released publicly.  

"We stand by the new policy and understand the public’s expectation in releasing video evidence sooner rather than later," Paul wrote in the statement Tuesday. "It is our intent to follow our new policy and continue to release video evidence of critical incidents as soon as possible to build on the trust we have with the community we serve."

When announcing the policy last week, police department officials told The Advocate the chief was reviewing this case for "potential release." And then Monday, in response to a public records request for the body and dash camera from the officer-involved shooting, an attorney for the department said "Chief Paul has decided that the requested video(s) will not be released at this time." In neither instance did department officials explain that there was no video of the shooting, until Tuesday. 

"I want to reassure the citizens of Baton Rouge that our Baton Rouge Police Officers are conducting a thorough investigation into this incident," Paul wrote in the statement. "We are asking for the public’s patience in this matter as our Detectives and Internal Affairs Investigators work diligently to exhaust all investigative efforts to conclude these investigations."

Howard has been arrested in at least three other incidents since 2015 in East Baton Rouge Parish in which he was accused of fleeing from law enforcement, according to court records.  In all three incidents, he allegedly didn't stop his vehicle when an officer attempted to conduct a traffic stop, and in one, he tried to run away on foot. However, he was taken into custody after a pursuit without incident in all three incidents. In the latest arrest in 2017, he told deputies he didn't stop because he had been nervous, records show.

One of the cases was later dismissed, but in the other two, Howard pleaded guilty to flight from an officer and was sentenced to probation. 

Follow Grace Toohey on Twitter, @grace_2e.