A 23-year-old woman, and mother of a 5-year-old child, is dead. She was killed by police officers who came to serve a warrant for failure to appear charges stemming from a March 11th traffic stop. That this ever escalated to the point where bullets started flying is incomprehensible. Then again, much of what the woman, Korryn Gaines, did was incomprehensible.
Gaines apparently considered herself a "sovereign citizen," which meant she chose not to recognize whatever laws she felt weren't worth following -- like registering her vehicle, insuring it, and equipping it with valid plates. Instead, she chose to make plates of her own out of cardboard that made some sort of statement about her sovereign citizen status. The traffic stop on March 11th escalated into an altercation with officers, resulting in more charges being added to the traffic violations.
When the SWAT team arrived August 2nd, Gaines warned the officers she would shoot them if they did not leave.
At about 9:20 a.m., officers knocked on the door repeatedly with no answer, despite hearing a man and woman inside, as well as a crying child, Johnson said. When officers were able to open the door using a key, they saw Gaines sitting on the floor pointing a 12-gauge shotgun at one of three officers and a 5-year-old near her.
Courtney was quickly arrested after running out of the apartment with a 1-year-old boy. Then around 3 p.m., Gaines pointed her weapon at a tactical officer and said, “If you don’t leave, I’m going to kill you,” according to authorities.
At that point, officers fired one round and Gaines fired two rounds in return, Johnson said. Authorities fired their weapons again, fatally striking her. The child was also struck by a round during the exchange but did not sustain life-threatening injuries.
The twist here is that Gaines was livestreaming the standoff, right up until law enforcement asked Facebook to kill the stream. Facebook complied, and possibly the only record of the incident not controlled by law enforcement disappeared with it. The police issued a statement explaining their actions.
“Gaines was posting video of the operation, and followers were encouraging her not to comply with negotiators’ requests that she surrender peacefully,” a spokesperson for the Baltimore County Police Department said. “This was a serious concern; successful negotiations often depend on the negotiators’ ability to converse directly with the subject, without interference or distraction during extremely volatile conditions.”
While the assertions made here may be true, the fact that law enforcement can make third-party recordings disappear is highly problematic. While the full statement shows the Baltimore County PD has asked Facebook to retain the video as evidence and will be seeking a search warrant to access the recording, the fact is that the recording will now be in the hands of law enforcement, rather than the public.
If any video of the standoff was captured with body cameras, it will be a long time before it's made public -- if it ever is. While very few recordings are truly objective, the one recording of the standoff whose existence can be confirmed is now (mostly) gone. And the unanswered question is whether or not the situation would have been handled differently if the officers knew the public was watching.
Facebook's compliance with the request is understandable. I'm sure it has no interest in becoming a live portal for police shootings. It similarly vanished away another live video of a killing by a police officer in Minnesota a few weeks ago, resulting in it harvesting some backlash before it reinstated the recording.
Facebook should be far more hesitant to comply in the future. And if law enforcement doesn't like the new status quo, it has nothing but itself to blame. When creating recordings of incidents like these is left to law enforcement, there's rarely anything to show for it. For one, the recordings remain in hands of law enforcement and are only handed over to the public after lengthy delays and with much reluctance.
For another -- despite the fact that nearly every vehicle and every officer is equipped with some sort of recording device -- when citizens are killed, there's often no recording of the incident to be found, no matter how many cameras were on the scene.
Community activists called on the city to release dashcam and body camera videos from a deadly police shooting last week, but police said a recording of the actual shooting is not available.
Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said the actual shooting was not recorded, although all officers on the scene were wearing body cameras.
Guglielmi said the body cameras of the two officers who fired into the vehicle were working, but the body camera of the officer who fired the fatal shot was not working.
[A] third officer opened fire, hitting and killing the unarmed 18-year-old. An autopsy revealed O’Neal died from a gunshot wound to the back.
Sure, that one could have been a fluke, but the PD is still refusing to release the video (which led to the three involved officers being stripped of their powers) for at least 60 days. At least there's some footage, even if the actual shooting wasn't caught on tape. In other incidents, there's nothing at all to see, despite there being plenty of potential "coverage."
The college student, John McKenna, was beaten and arrested for assaulting police officers. Cellphone video shot by numerous nearby students clearly showed that the officer attacked McKenna without provocation. When a security camera that should have captured the incident failed to produce any footage, police claimed it had been pointed in another direction. The officer in charge of the security cameras was married to one of the officers accused of beating McKenna.
Because of one of the agency’s consent decrees with the Justice Department, all of its police cruisers had been outfitted with cameras. Nine cruisers were at the scene of the incident. The county claimed in court filings that there was no video footage of the altercation because all nine dash cameras had coincidentally malfunctioned, or the tapes had been lost.
When it comes to recordings, law enforcement has proven repeatedly it's not up to the job. So, when officers approach third parties to shut down livestreams of volatile situations, these platforms should weigh law enforcement's track record of opacity against its supposed public safety concerns.