He was wearing a body camera throughout the incident, and the video was just released. Now, accordingly to the prosecutor, the video shows "the most asinine act by a police officer I have ever seen."
That's not what I saw when I closely watched the video, though admittedly I wasn't able to watch it frame by frame.
The officer pulled over the driver for a minor infraction--not having a front license plate... or did he pull him over for driving while black? The officer asks for his license. The driver searches around for it, but doesn't produce it. That is an expedient move by the driver because his license had been suspended (as investigation showed after the fact). If he had produced his license, the officer would quickly confirm that he was driving with a suspended license. That would probably mean an arrest, towing the car, and lots of fines for the driver.
Here is a chronology of how the altercation unfolds:
- At 3:12, the officer starts to open the car door. The driver grabs it to keep it closed. He moves his right hand to the ignition. The officer's right hand is on the roof of the car. The driver says "I didn't even do nothing."
- At 3:13, the officer says "Come on and take your seatbelt off." His right hand is still on the roof of the car.
- At 3:14, the driver starts the ignition (can be heard) and the officer reaches with his left hand into the car to grab the ignition.
- At 3:16, the officer yells "stop, stop." At the same time, the sound of the engine revving is audible. The gun is visible in the officer's right hand.
- At 3:17, the officer fires this gun. The driver slumps to his right. The car is also moving forward.
- At 3:18, the officer is falling backward. The camera shows the sky.
- At 3:19, the officer is starting to stand up. His gun is clearly seen in his right hand.
- At 3:24, he is running after the car down the street.
"You won't believe how quickly he pulls his gun and shoots him in the head."The officer claimed he was dragged, and that doesn't seem to be true. However, the driver must have put the car in gear while the officer was reaching in, so the officer had good reason to worry that he might be dragged or knocked down and run over.
To understand and judge the criminal charges, we will have to consider how officers should act when a driver tries to flee a minor traffic stop. We have to consider whether the officer was in danger, or whether he was trigger happy, or both. This is not an open-and-shut case.
It does seem to me that many officials in Cincinnati have ganged up on the officer. It's not just the prosecutor, who laid on charges of intentional murder and incompetence, The university fired him. The mayor stated that he wanted charges. No one there wants Ferguson-type riots and demonstrations. The officer seems to have been thrown under the bus as Cincinnati tries not to be the next epicenter of race-based demonstrations.
This isn't my final word on this case. I might write a post on how the video refutes the claims that the prosecutor made in his (grandstanding) press conference. Maybe I'll learn more about police training that leads officers to shoot first and shoot fast. Maybe I'll unravel how a simple traffic stop ends up with someone dead, not just once, but too many times already this year.
3:12 -- Look where their hands are.
More of the chronology:
- At 3:27, someone asks "Are you alright." The officer, while running, says "I'm good."
- At 3:41, he is close to where the car has crashed and we can see another security officer enter the frame.
- At 4:15, we can see that a third security officer is also already on the scene.
Update 7/31/15. Video from the body cameras of the two officers who arrived just as the altercation erupted.
Update 8/1/15. A Cincinnati officer killed in June of this year.