September 13, 2012
Police in Texas shot an unarmed man 41 times, then turned around and confiscated another man’s camera after he started taking photos and shooting video of the bloody aftermath.
Dallas-area cops then deleted the man’s footage before returning the camera four days later.
Now police from two agencies are vowing to do a “complete investigation,” which, of course, means we will hear nothing more about the August 31 incident for at least several months.
But so far, the partial investigation has determined that Garland police officer Patrick Tuter lied in his initial report when he claimed that suspect Michael Vincent Allen backed his truck into the patrol car, causing the cop to fear for his life and leaving him no choice but to fire 41 times, meaning he reloaded at least once.
Miraculously, a 20-year-old unarmed woman who was sitting in the cab of the pick-up truck emerged unscathed.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Mesquite police officers confiscated the witness’s camera:
“From the time they yelled, ‘Get out, get out,’ they didn’t give him three seconds to get out,” Mitchell Wallace said, adding that he counted about 20 bullet holes in Allen’s truck.
Wallace and his wife were asleep when the gunshots began, but they quickly made it to the porch to see Allen’s passenger being pulled from the truck and a police dog jumping into the cab. The German shepherd bit Allen in the neck and jaw area and dragged him out of the truck and onto the pavement, Wallace said.
Police officers pulled the dog off, flipped Allen on his stomach and handcuffed him before checking his pulse. Autopsy results are pending on the cause of Allen’s death.
Wallace took cellphone pictures and video after the shooting stopped, but he said Mesquite police confiscated the phone and deleted the video and pictures. The phone was returned four days later, he said.
Mesquite police are conducting the criminal investigation, which hopefully includes whether or not Tuter acted lawfully, and Garland police are conducting the internal investigation.
Photography is Not a Crime reader Avi Adelman, a Dallas resident who runs the local news blog Barking Dogs is demanding Mesquite conduct an internal investigation into their officers for confiscating Wallace’s camera and deleting his images, which is a violation of federal law.
The law states that police need a court order to confiscate a camera unless it was used in a commission of a crime. The only exception is if there are exigent circumstances, such as a strong belief that the witness will destroy the photos, therefore destroying evidence.
Under no circumstances do police have the right to delete footage.
Adelman stated the following in a letter he fired off to Mesquite City Manager Ted Barron:
Mr. Barron, the actions of the unnamed Mesquite police officer(s) was a violation of Mr. Mitchell’s First and Fourth Amendment rights. Attached to this fax is a US Department of Justice memo clearly outlining the issues regarding illegal seizures and deletions of video and photos captured by the public of police activities. I am also requesting in advance a copy of the Mesquite Police Departments internal affairs investigation, under the Texas Public Information Act.