The suspect said he didn’t reach for his belt.
IF you believe the article, what you stated is not true. In fact, it was because he didn’t deny reaching for his belt that he lost summary judgment. According to the article, he claimed the shot occurred immediately after he was commanded to stop walking away, which I am sure was intended to leave the impression there was insufficient time for him to have reached or for the officer to have perceived a threat. Denying summary judgment where the amount of time needed to “reach” is measured in nano-seconds and the alleged “timing” is predicated upon the testimony of a drunk would seem to stretch the meaning of disputable fact to its limits.
If you accept that had the drunk reached into his waistband the officer would have been justified in believing that he presented an imminent threat, then you must conclude, as did the courts below (and ultimately the Supreme Court), that the shooting was justified, regardless of the direction the drunk was facing. Indeed, it would be natural for anyone wishing to surreptitiously retrieve a weapon to turn their back before making the attempt and it would only take a brief moment afterward to maneuver the weapon into firing position, especially if surprise had been achieved.
Whether you like it or not, police are not required to receive a volley before they can defend themselves and, as many have already pointed out, it was the drunk’s apparent disregard for the process of arrest that put him at risk of having his movement/behavior misinterpreted. He shouldn’t have done that.