Footage vanished on command – not by a tech gremlin
The deadly shooting of 32-year-old Philando Castile by a cop during a routine traffic stop in Minnesota on Wednesday just got murkier.
Multiple sources have told The Register police removed video footage of Castile’s death from Facebook, potentially tampering with evidence.
Castile, his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, and her four-year-old daughter were pulled over by police in the Falcon Heights suburb of Minneapolis for a broken tail light. Using her cellphone and Facebook Live, Reynolds web-streamed footage of her dying boyfriend after he was shot by a police officer.
The video was mysteriously removed from her Facebook profile soon after.
On Thursday, Facebook said the recording was pulled from its social network due to a “technical glitch.” However, Reynolds claimed officers seized her phone and took over her Facebook account to delete the evidence.
Multiple sources with knowledge of the event have tonight confirmed to The Register that persons unknown – but highly suspected to be the city’s police – used her phone to delete her recording shortly after the shooting.
That move prevented anyone from sharing and watching the vid, until the material was restored about an hour later by Facebook with a graphic content warning.
In the meantime, copies of the footage spread across Twitter and YouTube.
“They took my phone.
They took over my Facebook.
They took everything I had at the time,” said Reynolds in an emotional press conference after she was arrested and detained by police.
“Everyone who shared my video, they don’t want you guys to be a part of this.
They don’t want us to support each other.
They’re going to tamper with evidence.
This is not right, this is not acceptable.
A police officer should not to be able to gun a man down for no reason.”
A spokesperson for Minneapolis police was not available for comment.
This isn’t going away
At a press conference on Thursday, the US state’s Democratic governor Mark Dayton said that he was appalled by the killing, and said that had Castile been white he would still be alive today.
There was a troubling pattern of racism in the police, he said, and this would be investigated.
“I can’t say how shocked I am and deeply, deeply offended that this would happen to somebody in Minnesota,” Dayton said grimly. “No one should be shot in Minnesota for a taillight being out of function. No one should be killed in Minnesota while seated in their car.”
If the Facebook account deletion came from Reynolds’ phone then the evidence could be damning.
She said she was held in a police station until 3am on Thursday before her boyfriend’s death was confirmed and two hours later she was dropped at home by a squad car.
“The images we’ve seen this week are graphic and heartbreaking, and they shine a light on the fear that millions of members of our community live with every day,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
“While I hope we never have to see another video like Diamond’s, it reminds us why coming together to build a more open and connected world is so important — and how far we still have to go.”
Who watches the watchmen? We do
The growth of cellphone video recording tech has been a potent force in exposing some of the worst excesses of both criminals and those who uphold the law.
The savage beating of Rodney King, caught on a home video camera in 1991 sparked the LA riots, but this was just a precursor to the spread of images captured by mobile phone cameras, and latterly video.
In the past few years we’ve seen police officers and crooks being caught on cellphones and home security systems breaking the law.
The recordings have proved to be much more reliable as evidence than eyewitness accounts of serious wrongdoing.
Attempts to arm the police with cameras that would protect them from claims of wrongdoing have been stymied by the astonishingly high rate of failure in the camera systems designed to protect them.
At the same time, cellphone footage of actual arrests and killings have served as damning evidence against claims of a legitimate takedown by officers.
In multiple cases police have confiscated smartphones from bystanders in cases of a serious incident.
As more and more people get the means to broadcast events live, this issue is going to come to the fore.
The US courts have waxed and waned over whether citizens have the right to record public police arrests – but the deletion of evidence is a definite no-no, and officers should expect to be held to account.
“All Americans should recognize the anger, frustration, and grief that so many Americans are feeling — feelings that are being expressed in peaceful protests and vigils. Michelle and I share those feelings,” said President Obama in a Facebook message on Thursday.
“Rather than fall into a predictable pattern of division and political posturing, let’s reflect on what we can do better. Let’s come together as a nation, and keep faith with one another, in order to ensure a future where all of our children know that their lives matter.” ®
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