But for Video . . .

The good old days when a police officer could execute a person, provide a reasonable explanation, and walk away with congratulations on a job well done are fading into the past. Body cams, dash cams, and citizens who are not afraid to record police officers have resulted in a flood of officers caught in lies after using deadly force. Hopefully, what we are not seeing are the many cases where officers are not abusing their power because now they know that they are being recorded. Police departments and legislatures are being brought, kicking and screaming in some cases, into the new age of public scrutiny.

In the latest episode of “but for video…,” a police officer in Texas executed a 15-year-old teenager who was committing the crime of leaving a house party in a vehicle. Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber immediately explained that the officer fired in self-defense because the car was moving aggressively towards the officer. Until he realized that there was a video of the incident which clearly shows the car moving away from the officers when the unidentified officer fired three times into the vehicle with a rifle. The teenager, sitting in the passenger seat, was shot in the head.

Cars, or any motor vehicles, are deadly weapons. If a suspect is attempting to hit an officer with a vehicle, there is no question that deadly force is justified. Police will often use this as an excuse for shooting and killing a fleeing suspect, however. Before the proliferation of video, it was the officer’s word against the suspect’s. Other officers would back up the shooter’s narrative. The suspect would be demonized as a career criminal with a prior record. The officer’s department would back them up. Prosecutors still bend over backward to help and support the officer even when they are demonstrably lying. Until there is a video of the incident. And the victim turns out to be an unarmed 15-year-old teenager who wasn’t even driving the vehicle.

Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber initially said a car was moving “aggressively” toward officers when one of them fired into it Saturday night, killing 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, but the chief told reporters Monday he “misspoke.” Haber said body camera footage of the incident showed the car was driving forward, away from the officers, not reversing toward them. “I take responsibility for that,” Haber said.
The Chief takes responsibility for lying to cover up a murder because there is now a video of it. Of course, the presence of a video doesn’t always mean law enforcement will come clean. Consider the murder of Zach Hammond by a police officer in Seneca, South Carolina in 2015. Despite a video showing Lt. Mark Tiller chasing and shooting Hammond in the back as he attempted to drive away from the officer, Tiller was not prosecuted for the crime. He remained on paid administrative leave for over a year until he was terminated in September of 2016. The local solicitor’s office has announced that they will not prosecute him, and there has been no word from federal authorities but I do not expect them to take action either.

One Response to “But for Video . . .

  • Either the officer that shot the fifteen-year-old needed to go back to the shooting range or he thought he was in England. Passengers are generally not in control of the car. But you already expressed that. Thanks for this article.

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