It’s been almost a year and a half since Ariane McCree was shot dead by police in a Walmart parking lot, handcuffed and possessed with a gun. But his family still has many questions that remain unanswered.
McCree, 28, drove out of Walmart in Chester, South Carolina, a small northern district of Columbia, an hour after he was handcuffed for allegedly stealing a $ 45 lock in November 2019, police said.
But what happened next remained unclear, in part because response officers had not activated their identity cameras until after McCree, a black father and former high school footballer, was shot by a police bullet.
“A lot of things didn̵7;t add up,” his cousin Tabatha Strother told NBC News, “but we would have known a lot if BODYCAM was on.”
Body cameras are hailed as an essential tool for increasing transparency, preserving and providing critical information in the event of use of force.
The McCree case, along with the latest fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo and Ma’Khia Bryant, underscores the importance of body camera footage for transparency. Of more than 12,000 local police agencies nationwide, about half of them have cameras. But having a body camera isn’t meant to be used properly.
Experts say police departments need to implement three basic rules for cameras to be effective: Tell officers specifically when to record, make sure they announce they are filming, and draw clear conclusions when the rules are broken.
But many of the country’s major police departments fail to follow these basic guidelines. Examining 28 large police body camera policies in the United States’ geographic representation, along with the policy in Chester, NBC News found that 45 percent provided specific recommendations for when officers should begin recording. About 41 percent want officials to announce they are recording, and only 34 percent clearly state that there is a non-recording effect.
“The cameras are not there alone,” said Danny Murphy, deputy commander of the Baltimore Police Department’s compliance department.
“They are intended to record their interactions in order to strengthen the public’s responsibility and trust. And agencies are preparing for failure if they don’t have real policies. “
Murphy knows this firsthand.
He was previously tasked with renovating the New Orleans Police Department after an investigation by the Department of Justice found numerous problems within it.
With Murphy’s supervision, the department is implementing new policies and procedures, including new guidelines on the use of body cameras.
New Orleans police began matching data from the body camera with the incident report of the verifier of how police interactions with citizens were recorded. In addition, body camera images became part of the police department staff inspection process.
Murphy said the change has led to a sharp rise in authorities following proper camera procedures. Power complaints dropped 60 percent – from 45 to 18 – between 2014 and 2018, according to Murphy’s.
“The camera is not a panacea,” he said, “but it is the cornerstone for reform. Having a camera is one thing. Making sure you turn on the camera is an important next step. But there must be supervision and responsibility for how we are doing. “
Murphy began working for the Baltimore Police Department in April 2019 as part of a consent order to help reform the agency after an investigation by the Justice Department found the agency engaged in a form of wrongdoing. The law, which is targeted at the black community, violates both the constitution and the federal government. Anti-discrimination laws
Baltimore’s new camera policy requires officers to be enabled as quickly as possible in response to the incident.
“In a non-emergency call, our agents should activate the camera before exiting the vehicle to capture the entire incident,” Murphy said. Time to the scene of the accident 1 minute or another 5 minutes to the scene “
That’s not what happened in the McCree case.
He arrived at Walmart in Chester before 9am on November 23, 2019, according to police.
McCree picked up the $ 45.87 door handle lock and walked out of the store without paying, telling the cashier to “put it on his tab,” police said.
He returned to the store a few hours later and approached an off-duty police officer, where he knew who worked as a Walmart security guard.
McCree asked how much the door handle lock cost. But it was soon handcuffed and taken to the shop’s anti-lost office.
Surveillance footage obtained by NBC News showed McCree charged another off-duty officer working in security, identified as Sgt. Nicholas Harris, and then ran to the parking lot.
Harris chased after Macree. But lost him outside the store
There are conflicting reports of what will happen next.
According to the state law enforcement division that examined the shooting, McCree, who was handcuffed behind him, ran to the car to get the gun. Some witnesses said he shot it, others said he had never seen him with a gun.
The report said Harris told investigators he found McCree opposite the car park beside Taco Bell, with McCree pounding his head and running off. Harris told investigators he had found Macry again. But the handcuffed man is now armed, according to reports.
Harris told investigators that he made eye contact with Macree and could see that. “He had the full intention of killing me.” Harris fired several shots, then hid behind the car and called for help, stating that he had run out of ammunition.
Around 11:30 AM, counter-duty police officer Justin Baker arrives at the Walmart car park. As he pulled up to the storefront, he heard a “gunfire” sound on police radio, according to a state investigation.
Baker got out of the car and walked through the parking lot with his gun drawn. The report said McCree showed up from two cars and Baker.The baker then approached McCree and pulled a silver pistol from under the body of the seriously injured man.
State investigators will later determine Baker fired 13 shots and Harris 11 had not found a Macree gun shell casing.
The baker tells investigators that McCree had pointed a gun at him and refused to comply with a disarming order.
But there was no way to verify that account – Baker turned on his camera after McCree was shot by a police bullet.
However, there are some images from Baker’s body camera at the time leading up to McCree’s death, with his dual camera auto-recording feature set to record the previous two minutes without sound when he was recording.
The Chester Police Department released body camera images in June as the case is gaining attention again following the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody. Apolis
But for many, including the McCree family, a distant picture with no sound raises more questions than answers.
Eric Piza, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, examined McCree’s camera footage for NBC News.
“What stood out to me, first of all, was the fact that I only learned a little about the situation from watching the video,” said Pisa, who specializes in analyzing what led to police confrontations.
“We don’t hear the police’s instructions or we don’t know if he has been stopped and if he has been ordered to put the gun down. We had no idea if the officers saw the gun, “he added.” These were missing in reviewing the incident. “
South Carolina’s attorney general declined to prosecute any one of its officers, citing self-defense and protection of others. A US lawyer is investigating the case.
Baker is no longer working in the department, although police officers declined to say why neither Baker nor Harris responded to requests for comment. Two other off-duty staff working with Harris at Walmart on the day did not respond to a request for comment.
Chester Police Chief Eric Williams was suspended in January and the interim chief, named after a state investigator, opened an investigation into the department’s finances, according to the Rock Hill Herald.
Before he was suspended, Williams declined to comment on the McCree case to NBC News.He previously defended officials involved.
“When someone points a firearm at you and walks towards you, I don’t know a lot of elevation that you can infiltrate in that situation. But to retaliate, ”Williams said last June.
Chester did not respond to a request for comment.NBC News reviewed the police department’s camera policy last September. But it’s not clear if there’s an update.
The Chester Police Department did not respond to a request for comment. Williams has not yet responded to requests for comment.
Meanwhile, the McCree family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the police department.
In an interview with NBC News, McCree’s brother Michael called for stricter camera policies across the country.
“Lots of people’s lives are in danger,” says Michael McCree, “and people are being exploited because the cameras don’t spin.”