Here's a philosophical question of sorts: if 11 police cars respond to an incident and a officer winds up shooting a suspect, but there was no video or audio available of the incident, did it really happen?
In February, Seattle Police were dispatched to a man's residence after 911 callers claimed that their brother was mentally unbalanced and trying to kill their father. When officers arrived at the father's home, they attempted to subdue the 21-year old suspect with Tasers. Officers then claimed the man brandished a piece of rebar, so they shot him to death. The suspect's father disputes those events, saying that his son never threatened anyone with the rebar.
In theory, the dispute could have been resolved by checking police car dashcam video of the incident. But it turns out there was no video or audio from the incident available, despite a total of 11 squad cars responding to the 911 call. SPD policy requires these cameras to be activated at incident sites whenever feasible.
This week, SPD said that only five of the cars' dashcams were turned on at the time of the shooting, while the systems in the other vehicles were not. Also, none of the microphones that were attached to the officers' bodies were either not turned on or out of range. These mics had the ability to record audio of the incident along with the dashcam footage. An SPD spokesman said that some of the squad cars parked far away from the incident site in order to preserve the element of surprise. Also, because the call came in during a shift change, some of the responding officers did not take the time to log in to the precinct's video system, which apparently takes several minutes.
Jim Pugel, SPD's interim police chief, says he will look into the matter. The public safety committee of the Seattle City Council is also requesting additional information about what took place. But none of these measures will be able to shed light on exactly how a young man was killed in a police shootout.