I spent a few too many hours editing these videos down to an annotated good parts version. Here's the timeline:
0:00 1st police car passenger's bodycam
0:21 1st police car passenger's bodycam, with comments
1:47 1st police car driver's bodycam
2:01 1st police car driver's bodycam, with comments
2:50 rammed police car's dashcam
3:08 rammed police car's dashcam, with comments
It all does happen so fast. But it's a bad shooting. And that's before O'Neal is killed. The bottom line is that the first cop who shot -- the passenger in the first police car struck -- shot too quickly and unreasonably. His actions directly led to O'Neal's death by creating what is known, in technical police circles, as "a complete clusterfuck."
This cop fucked up in so many different ways, it's hard to count the ways. But I came up with eight, for starters:
1) His gun is unholstered in the car (WTF?) before he even gets out.
2) He shoots without an imminent threat to him or his partner.
3) He shoots one-handed, while moving, without trigger control.
4) He shoots at a moving vehicle (which goes against department policy).
5) He came damn close to shooting his partner!
7) He shoots at a fleeing felon (which goes against Tennessee v. Garner).
8) He shoots downrange toward a light-flashing police car coming in his direction.
And for what? A stolen car?
And after the shootings, his most-vocalized worry was:
Fuck, I'm going to be on the desk for 30 goddamn days now. Fucking desk duty for 30 days now. Motherfucker.Don't worry. You won't be sitting at a desk for long. You'll be criminally charged with something, as you should be. Probably convicted, too. And I hope you're fired for shooting at other cops. No cop will work next to this trigger-happy shooting-at-his-partners cowboy. The other officers on scene could only be so lucky if it turns out that the fatal bullet did come from his gun. See, despite having fired at at least 10 times, Officer 30-Goddamn-Days can't be convicted of homicide because he probably never hit O'Neal! It would be fitting if they made him pay for the bullet hole in the car.
The officer who fired the fatal shot probably shot O'Neal in the backyard, and there's no video of this. He or she will have a reasonable defense. They had good (albeit incorrect) reasons to believe O'Neal was armed, dangerous, and shooting at cops. O'Neal was a felon who rammed a cop car head-on. The irony is that Cowboy Cop, by shooting, makes the subsequent officers' actions more reasonable.
This could turn out like the police-involved shooting of Amadou Diallo: a tragedy, a bad shooting, and a collective fuck-up, but still not a convictable criminal offense for cops thinking they're under fire. "Reasonable" is the legal standard. (But it doesn't do justice to Diallo to compare these shootings. Diallo's death was worse because Diallo was innocent, compliant, not in a stolen car, and not fleeing from police.) This won't be as open-and-shut obvious acquittal as, say, homicide by failure to seatbelt. But cops don't have to be right; they have to be reasonable. And criminal cases need to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
And yes, it should be said: kids, don't steal cars!
[I first saw the videos on Tanveer Ali's article in DNAinfo. Unedited videos can be found at Vimeo under Log# 1081642.]
[The one "good" shot, in my opinion, comes from the driver of the first police car. He gets out of the way of the car coming at him and takes fire (turns out from his stupid partner, but he didn't know that). What he does know (even though it turns out to be wrong) is that a felon is shooting at cops and driving toward more police officers. You can shoot at a vehicle if you believe that vehicle to be an imminent threat is a form other than the vehicle itself. (The police passenger knew the car thief wasn't shooting, so his shots were not good.) The police driver assumes a good shooting stance, aims, and fires once (or maybe twice), hoping to hit the driver in his back. Given what he knew right there and then, it's a good shooting (even with the cop car downrange, but off-target). This is not the same as saying his shooting was right in hindsight. It wasn't. But shootings can be legally justifiable even when hindsight proves them wrong.]