Man Shot By Cops Claims Shotspotter Found Phantom 'Gunshot' To Justify Officer's Deadly Force

from the so-are-cops-still-losing-the-tech-race-or-whatever? dept

A lawsuit originally filed early last year makes some very disturbing allegations about police officers and their relationship with their vendors. New York resident Silvon Simmons was shot three times by Rochester Police Officer Joseph Ferrigno. Simmons was unarmed, but was hit with three of the four bullets fired by Ferrigno as he ran way from the officer.

Shortly before being shot. Simmons had been engaged in “Minding Your Own Business,” which can apparently be nearly-fatal. Returning from a trip to a convenience store shortly after 9 pm, Officer Ferrigno cut in front of him, hit Simmons with his spotlight, exited his car with his gun drawn, and opened fire when Simmons began running. According to Simmons’ amendment complaint [PDF] filed in August, Ferrigno never stated he was police officer before opening fire. Simmons, blinded by the spotlight, was unsure who was shooting at him. Even if he had known it was cop, he still would have had no idea why he was being stopped, much less shot at.

The number of bullets fired matters, as Tracy Rosenburg of Oakland Privacy reports. Something seriously messed up happened after the shooting. A gun was found in the yard several houses away from where Simmons was stopped. Cops tried to tie this weapon to Simmons to justify Ferrigno’s deadly force use, despite the gun being located in the opposite direction of Simmons’ flight path.

Not that it would have mattered if it had been found in the same yard where Simmons lay “playing dead” in order to not get shot again by his unseen assailant.

A Ruger revolver was said to have been recovered at the site an hour or so later. The Ruger did not belong to Silvon Simmons. His fingerprints and DNA were not on the recovered gun. The only shell casings recovered at the site were the four bullets from the officer’s Glock. The Ruger had an empty magazine and it was not in the lockback position, indicating it had not been recently fired.

Simmons offered to give the officers even more evidence, but since it was exculpatory, they weren’t interested.

Simmons requested his hands and clothing be checked for gunpowder residue. The request was denied. Simmons repeated the request in writing while intubated at the hospital and was told to stop writing questions.

Having reverse-engineered a narrative to support the shooting, cops set about charging Simmons with attempted aggravated murder, attempted aggravated assault on a police officer, and criminal weapon possession. Simmons spent more than a year in jail before being acquitted on all charges. The wounds he sustained are permanent.

The dark and disturbing wildcard in this lawsuit is a Shotspotter gunshot detection device. The sensor reported no shots that night. What it detected during the shooting of Simmons was determined by the device to be “helicopter noise.” That alone is concerning, considering the main job of the Shotspotter is to spot gunshots.

But that all changed once a police officer got involved. The Shotspotter forensic report says the incident switched from “helicopter noise” to “multiple gunshots” at an officer’s request. This officer requested something extra though: an additional gunshot to support the narrative used to charge Simmons with murder/assault and give Officer Ferrigno post-incident permission to shoot the man fleeing from him.

A Rochester police officer acknowledged at the criminal trial of Silvon Simmons that he left the shooting scene after midnight, returned to the fourth floor at the Central Investigations Division of the Rochester Police Department, logged onto a computer and opened a chat session with Shotspotter, where he provided the location, time, the number of possible shots and the caliber of the weapons allegedly fired. Officer Robert Wetzel also testified that Shotspotter responded to him that they found a fifth gunshot at his request.

Shotspotter’s forensic analyst certified the report, testifying that five shots were fired. Shotspotter somehow managed to detect another gunshot hours after the incident, using only the guidance of an officer who desperately needed another shot on the record. The company’s forensic expert basically admitted this much while testifying.

This conclusion was based solely upon information provided to Shotspotter by the Rochester Police Department.

There may have been a simple way to prove/disprove the existence of another gunshot — one that can’t be traced to the weapon found or have been observed by anyone but the officer who needed a justification for his deadly force deployment. Spotshotter retains recordings… usually. But somehow this essential recording capturing an officer-involved shooting vanished.

[Shotspotter forensic analyst Paul] Greene testified at the criminal trial that there was “no way to go and look at the original file that was recorded and there is no way to listen to all the audio from that day”. The reason there was no way to do this was that both Shotspotter and the Rochester Police Department had lost the audio recording from the night of April 1, 2016.

Whatever doesn’t agree with the narrative had to go, and so Shotspotter’s recording went. Shotspotter has customers to please and shareholders to earn profits for. If the customer isn’t happy with the product, they’re unlikely to keep buying more. If keeping a customer happy means deleting recordings and certifying altered forensic reports, so be it. Whatever it takes to ensure the revenue stream keeps flowing — even if “whatever” means framing a gunshot victim for a crime he didn’t commit.

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Companies: shotspotter

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Comments on “Man Shot By Cops Claims Shotspotter Found Phantom 'Gunshot' To Justify Officer's Deadly Force”

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71 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

These law enforcent types drive around all day all night looking for trouble. They are ever anticipating trouble. They dream, eat and sleep expecting trouble. They train with human targets at ranges. Some even enter competitions shooting at moving human targets. They carry firearms 24/7. At some point they are all begging for trouble just to interupt what has to be agrivating boredom. They are making this world a more dangerous place, not soley, but they are definitely adding to the chaos and bloodshed everywhere.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Life imitates...

Probably a case of art imitating life. Most of the early CSI episodes were based on real forensics cases that had already been shown on popular forensics documentary TV shows.

One suspects that previous activity by the Shotspotter corporation’s audio experts had been noticed by the show’s writers.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yep, people seem to forget that the original phrase isn’t just about there being some bad apples in the barrel. It’s a reminder that if you leave bad ones in there then they will eventually spoil the whole lot.

Anyone who says anything about “a few bad apples” but then goes on to oppose attempts to investigate or remove bad cops is entirely missing the point of their own words.

Anonymous Coward says:

and this type of behavior is different exactly how to what happens on an almost daily basis, somewhere in the USA? when are politicians going to wake up and, more importantly, when are the people going to do so and get politicians voted in who actually do what they are supposed to, look after the Nation and the people, not keep covering for security forces and taking back handers while doing so?

Tin-Foil-Hat says:

Re: Re: Re:

Their job is supposed to be enforcing the law but not everyone is cut out for the job. Worse still some are liars that will say or do anything to justify their cowardice and lack of judgement, like in this case.

I have had police officers help me more often than not.

On the other hand I’ve also had a very bad experience. I am a 90 pound woman and a small town cop pushed me around. He was like a nasty version of chief Wiggam.
He bruised me up enough that I wore long sleeves in 100 degree weather to cover up the bruises. For some reason he assumed I was a young, criminal drug abuser that looked old from all the drug abuse. I actually look young for my age as a result of good genes and botox. When he saw that I was over 50 he went into damage control, lying mode. He was a terrible person to the core.

In any workplace you have a combination of exemplary employees, decent employees and fucking assholes so I don’t want to unfairly hold every cop responsible for what this guy did but I’m terrified of the police now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Any confusion about police priorities should have been settled by watching events unfold in Ferguson, Missouri a few years ago, when the entire police force surrounded City Hall while ignoring numerous reports of looters and arsonists, who roamed freely while they burned down the rest of the town while the police remained occupied with higher priorities.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

They all LIE. They will lie right to your face as they make up B.S. THey cover for each other. It’s why they have their Thin Blue Line Gang Symble.

This PIG should be thrown into jail for at least 30 years. Sued and everything taken away from him. Until this type of thing starts happening, all these corrupt pigs will continue. They’re all protected by each other as they lie and falsify evidence and the taxpayers end up footing the bill. If they do get fired, they just move on to another police department with a new clean record.

Anonymous Coward says:

Welcome to the World of Tomorrow...

Now they can manufacture evidence using nothing but a laptop. Gods forbid they get the phone app.

Why isn’t the officer(s) charged with falsifying evidence; attempted murder; perjury (lying on the reports submitted to the court); not to mention the host of other charges I’m sure a competent DA could stack on???

Kitsune 106 says:

Re: Welcome to the World of Tomorrow...

Simple.

Because it was a good faithed attempt by something wanting to do good and who knew the person was guilty.

Besides, the there was no prior case. That said asking for confirmation of this gunshit record and making up was illegal. Thus qualified immunity works.

And the DA does not want to get the PBA invovled.

And police have way more rights then normal people. They can change their statements without fear of perjury after seeing evidence against them. In some places.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Welcome to the World of Tomorrow...

“Why isn’t the officer(s) charged with …. “

Because the DA wants to be on good terms with cops on the street as it benefits the conviction ratio and hence the chances of re-election in our somewhat twisted “law ‘n order” society.

It is not necessarily our priorities that are out of line, it is, possibly, the misunderstanding of what these common political talking points actually result in.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

“This conclusion was based solely upon information provided to Shotspotter by the Rochester Police Department.”

And any good lawyer is going to use this to end the use of Shotspotter in any court case. Officers have the ability to get an alleged independent 3rd party offering “evidence”, to swear to whatever they want. Magically any evidence available to confirm or deny this “evidence” disappeared, but we are to accept that a vendor would NEVER do anything to keep a contract & not offer this evidence to a court.

A made up recording of a shot, sworn to by an “expert” who had no recording to listen to, just the narrative of a cop.
A weapon found much later in the direction opposite of the victims direction of travel.
An officer who failed to identify himself & opened fire on a “suspect” who wasn’t armed.
A department who refused to test for gunshot residue, when such a test would have completely verified their claims.

Just a few bad apples, helped along by those who care more about a paycheck than truth. Crime labs covering up bad actors to protect faulty convictions. Junk science called proof. Denying new trials to the wrongly convicted b/c the Judge hearing the appeal was the DA in the case.

They scream about how people don’t respect cops anymore, yet they can’t manage to see why their actions to protect their image at the expense of citizens undermines any faith we have in them.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Shotspotter shot itself in the foot, leg, arm, torso and head

It seems to me that Shotspotter can now be called into question every time is it used by LEO’s as evidence of something or other. Not only did their personnel change the narrative (helicopter noise to 4 shots to 5 shots) upon request from LEO’s, they then lost that days recordings and then went and testified to the made up narrative, until they got caught. In addition, it does not appear that this individual was charged with perjury either.

stderric (profile) says:

Re: Shotspotter shot itself in the foot, leg, arm, torso and head

And any good lawyer is going to use this to end the use of Shotspotter in any court case. – TAC

Shotspotter shot itself in the foot… It seems to me that Shotspotter can now be called into question every time is it used by LEO’s as evidence of something or other. – AAC

You & TAC have good points, but I’d say this case works out great for Shotspotter since at this point they can just claim the evidence was manufactured by a rogue employee acting on his own and fire him — no more problems in court, because there’s not yet evidence of a long term pattern of this behavior. What do they get out of it? Free "wink wink nudge nudge" marketing to LEAs that they’ll go the extra mile to help ’em out, and a reminder to develop a decent OTR communication channel between themselves and their customers for special circumstances. I bet sales will skyrocket.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Shotspotter shot itself in the foot, leg, arm, torso and head

Ah but Shotspotter is going to have to spend actual money to make their system unable to be gamed by workers & have outside review of their policies.

And every lawyer will just keep pointing out it happened in this case & they haven’t shown us anything proving it can’t happen again.

Anonymous Coward says:

magazine or clip?

"A Ruger revolver was said to have been recovered at the site an hour or so later. The Ruger did not belong to Silvon Simmons. His fingerprints and DNA were not on the recovered gun. The only shell casings recovered at the site were the four bullets from the officer’s Glock. The Ruger [revolver] had an empty magazine and it was not in the lockback position, indicating it had not been recently fired."

Am I the only one to notice something funny here, or have I dreadfully failed to keep up with the latest advances in modern firearm technology?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: magazine or clip?

Indeed, a mistake by TWO writers, particularly the second one, who copy/pasted the quote without noticing anything odd. Female writers get a free pass on such mistakes of course, since few ever owned guns (even toy guns as a kid), joined the Boy Scouts or military, play shooting-type video games, or have ever had any interest in reading such books or magazines.

Valkor says:

Re: Re: Re: magazine or clip?

Thanks for the first sentence of your reply, but not so much for the second.
BTW, a quick Google search brings up a Pew survey that shows that almost 40% of men own guns and nearly a quarter of women do. Yes, fewer women own guns, but that’s not the same as making blanket statements about gender ignorance.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 magazine or clip?

A large part of the reason of the visibly-obvious gender participation rate could conceivably be because many women don’t feel comfortable attending virtually all-male gatherings, and remain unseen “closet” enthusiasts of one kind or another. However, sites like Youtube and Patreon make it easy to see the actual demographic breakdown of online subscribers. But rather than seeing more women fans, I was surprised to see 99% male/1% female levels of participation (according to the channel owner). That was indeed a bit shocking, unless most women were simply lying.

One statistic I would love to see is the gender breakdown of cops who shoot unarmed people, and how they shoot them (“reached for his wasteband”/running away/refused orders, etc) to see if it could be viewed as basically a defensive/fear-based or offensive/power-based engagement. As always, the results could be surprising.

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

> Having reverse-engineered a narrative to support the shooting, cops set about charging Simmons with attempted aggravated murder, attempted aggravated assault on a police officer, and criminal weapon possession. Simmons spent more than a year in jail before being acquitted on all charges. The wounds he sustained are permanent.

… Forget the legal aspects of this, how the hell did this not attract enough outrage on social media and national news to force the prosecutors (an elected position) to drop these ridiculous charges?

There’s not even any kind of “well he was illegally selling a couple dollar cigarette” justification for these actions. It was straight up pull over and attempt to murder the first person you see, then charge THEM with the attempted murder instead of the shooting.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re:

… Forget the legal aspects of this, how the hell did this not attract enough outrage on social media and national news to force the prosecutors (an elected position) to drop these ridiculous charges?

That actually highlights my standard response to “why are we only hearing about all this violence now, the world is much more unsafe now”. Its hard to get attention drawn to a specific instance of violence. Social media and national news can amplify things, but they have to catch on locally to get enough spread to go viral. And we didn’t used to have social media to help bump things locally. But if no one in the local news room decided to make a case of it without the news story it amkes it hard to get a facebook post to circulate widely outside the local area, and it never gets national attention.

Just like memes or Gangnam style, who knows why certain news goes viral.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'Can't hold them to the same, or ANY standards after all...'

Attempted murder, perjury, interfering with a witness to cause them to create fraudulent evidence, destruction of said evidence…

If the DA actually gave a damn it seems it would have been trivial to nail the would-be murderer to the wall on any number of charges, but since police are effectively above the law…

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