A police officer in Garland, Texas, is under investigation after he he shot a man 41 times. But as if that wasn't controversial enough, a witness who took images and video with a cellphone is angry after police confiscated the memory card containing the possibly damaging evidence.
The Dallas Morning News reports that the incident occurred after midnight on Aug. 31 when Officer Patrick Tuter spotted a white GMC pickup truck driven by Michael Allen who was involved in a police chase . Allen turned into a dead end, and trapped by Garland police was first reported to have hit a squad car as officers were trying to prevent his escape. It was this that lead Tuter, fearing for his life, to open fire.
This week though, review of the squad car's dashcam reveals it was the police vehicle, not Allen's truck, that did the smashing. A witness in the neighborhood, Mitchell Wallace, said he heard the commotion, heard the officers yelling for Allen to get out of his vehicle and they opened fire before he emerged:
After Allen pulled into a driveway at the end of a cul-de-sac in an attempt to make a U-turn, his truck was pinned between two police cars with one of the police cars striking Allen’s truck from the front, said Wallace’s 17-year-old son, Cameron.
“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.
The Dallas Morning News reports by the time Wallace and his wife made it to their porch to see the scene, Allen was being taken out of the car by a police dog that allegedly bit him on the neck and jaw, according to Wallace's account. Allen was killed in the events of that night but an autopsy has yet to determine cause of death.
Watch this KCEN TV report for more details on the event:
It was Wallace who took cellphone photos and video after the shooting had stopped. The Dallas Morning News reports Wallace saying police took his phone and returned it four days later -- without pictures or video. In a separate report, though, the Dallas Morning News reports police saying they did not delete the content, but are in possession of the memory chip that still has the images and video still intact.
Carlos Miller, with the blog Photography Is Not a Crime, takes issue with the authorities confiscating Wallace's camera, which he writes under state law requires a court order unless it was used in the crime. Miller writes other circumstances where it could be taken without a court order would be if there were a "strong belief that the witness will destroy the photos, therefore destroying evidence."
TheBlaze has reported on Miller before when he was arrested at an Occupy event earlier this year, which he was documenting as a photojournalist. Miller, who advocates for the right to film police in public, took footage of his arrest, which he then says was deleted from his camera. He was able to recover the footage and is now suing the Miami-Dade Police Department for these actions.
As for Allen's case, Tuter's attorney John Snider told the Dallas Morning News that "at some point, while trying to prevent the suspect from making an escape, Officer Tuter did feel in fear for his life and was justified in firing his weapon."
Tuter is reported as the only officer on the scene who fired any shots and he did have to reload to get off 41 rounds.
The Dallas Morning News reports Garland police spokesman Joe Harn saying that an investigation is underway to "find out exactly why he started shooting" in the first place.