Police open fire on unarmed couple, don’t turn on body cameras, but footage recovered anyway

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By Walter Einenkel, Daily Kos

New video has been released showing the insane moment in New Haven, Connecticut, on April 16 that Hamden Police Officer Devin Eaton fired 13 shots into a Honda Civic driven by 21-year-old Paul Witherspoon III. Witherspoon and his girlfriend, 22-year-old Stephanie Washington, were in the car when Eaton told them to pull over. According to Eaton, he ordered Witherspoon to come out with his hands up, but Witherspoon came out “too quickly.”

Eaton turned on his body cam after the shooting occurred. However, a recall function in the body camera technology allowed recovery of footage of the first 15 seconds of the encounter, minus the sound.

In the video, Eaton exits his police vehicle behind Witherspoon’s car. Witherspoon can be seen opening the car door, and putting his hands up, when Eaton shoots at least once—the rear window of the Civic shattering—and continues to shoot and move to the car’s left, shooting out the front passenger seat window. A Yale University officer on the scene, Terrence Pollack, took three shots and was hit by shrapnel from one of Eaton’s bullets. According to CBS, Pollack “failed to turn on his body and dash cameras.” Washington was shot, but is expected to recover. Witherspoon escaped injury.

According to police, Eaton pulled Witherspoon over in  response to a 911 call about an alleged armed robbery. Witherspoon’s lawyer told reporters there was a disagreement between Witherspoon and a man at a gas station, but no guns were involved. No weapons were found in or around Witherspoon and Washington.

Connecticut Public Safety Commissioner James Rovella told reporters at a press conference that “There are indications that he was told to open the door, yes, or come out with his hands up.” When a reporter pointed out that the video seems to show Witherspoon doing exactly that, Rovella responded, “It looks like it, but I can’t tell you what’s in one of the hands.”

Both officers have been suspended pending an investigation. But with the state’s public safety commissioner already providing some doubt that Witherspoon’s hands above his head might be concealing a weapon, it’s hard to see there being any meaningful censure of Eaton or Pollack. However, the video tells a much different story. It tells the story of a law enforcement officer so anxious that he cannot do his job without almost murdering an innocent unarmed couple.

This article originally appeared in Daily Kos.

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