Police Delete Aftermath Footage Of Suspect Shot 41 Times
from the pure-violation dept
We've written several times before about the prevalence of recording devices and the protection citizens deserve in being allowed to film public servants doing their public duties. Some police departments seem to get it better than others, such as the DCPD policy for not confiscating cell phone cameras or deleting footage. Other departments, such as those in my hometown of Chicago, seem to think they can just take your property without a warrant as a way to stave off criticism of their poor behavior. But sometimes we get an example of why this debate is so important, when an officer of the law goes to the egregious lengths of killing a citizen and then his fellow officers attempt to cover up the evidence.
Tom Landry writes in about one such extreme example, featuring Texas police pumping 41 bullets at a man, having a police dog attack him, when the officer's stated and still ridiculous reasons for doing so were pure fabrication. Then, a fellow officer confiscated a witness’s camera and deleted footage of the aftermath of the incident. Michael Allen Vincent, a man who allegedly had several traffic incidents with police in the past, had led policeman Patrick Tuter on a high speed chase before pulling over into a cul de sac. That’s when Tuter ordered Vincent out of the car, before discharging his weapon 41 times, for reasons we’ll get into later. As you might expect, all the noise attracted the attention of neighbors.
[Mitchell] Wallace and his wife were asleep when the gunshots began, but they quickly made it to the porch to see Allen's passenger being pulled from the truck and a police dog jumping into the cab. The German shepherd bit Allen in the neck and jaw area and dragged him out of the truck and onto the pavement, Wallace said. Police officers pulled the dog off, flipped Allen on his stomach and handcuffed him before checking his pulse. Autopsy results are pending on the cause of Allen's death.
Wallace took cellphone pictures and video after the shooting stopped, but he said Mesquite police confiscated the phone and deleted the video and pictures. The phone was returned four days later, he said.
First, I have a few complicated theories on what the cause of death may have been. Most of them involve an officer shooting at an unarmed suspect 41 times, having to reload at least once mind you, and/or a large dog dragging someone out of a car by the neck. Secondly, this confiscation of the camera and the deletion of footage is a blatant violation of the 1st and 4th amendments, as the article notes.
The law states that police need a court order to confiscate a camera unless it was used in a commission of a crime. The only exception is if there are exigent circumstances, such as a strong belief that the witness will destroy the photos, therefore destroying evidence. Under no circumstances do police have the right to delete footage.
Already a Texas Public Information Act request has been filed for a copy of the investigation into the seizure of the cell phone and deletion of footage.
Now, lest you think that this man somehow deserved to have 41 bullets fired at him before being attacked by a police dog, it turns out that Officer Tuter's stated reason for reacting so violently, that suspect Vincent had “backed his truck into the patrol car” (seriously?), was a complete fabrication as found out by his own dash camera. Tuter has since been suspended.
So, in the same story, we have police deleting footage from a witness illegally, while the illegal actions of an officer are only discovered because of camera footage. The juxtaposition perfectly highlights why the confiscation of cameras and deletion of potential evidence is such a horrendous violation of the public trust. I can think of no more clear way to demonstrate the need for strong protections for the public filming their civil servants.