“Great services are not cancelled by one act or by one single error.” Benjamin Disraeli

 

On May 31st, 2015, two Palestine, TX, police officers shot and killed James Bushey (47). Bushy was suspected of shoplifting beer from a local WalMart, and reported by witnesses to have fled and entered a nearby Applebees where he proceeded into the restroom. Palestine police Sergeant Gabriel Green and Officer Kaylynn Griffin responded to the call and confronted Bushey in the restaurant washroom.

Below is the video taken from Sgt. Green’s body camera. Watch it first (be honest and do so), then answer the questions that follow:

 

 

1- Do you think Sgt. Green put himself in harm’s way at any time?
2- Do you think Sgt. Green ignored “warning signs?”
3- Do you think Sgt. Green was slow to react/draw his gun?
4- How many shots did Sgt. Green fire?

 

Now, watch the video from Officer Griffin’s body camera and answer the questions that follow:

1- Do you think Sgt. Green put himself in harm’s way at any time?
2- Do you think Sgt. Green ignored “warning signs?”
3- Do you think Sgt. Green was slow to react/draw his gun?
4- How many shots did Sgt. Green fire?
5- Why do you think Officer Griffin didn’t immediately start firing?
6- Why do you think Officer Griffin fired when she did?

 

My commentary on the videos:

At the initial contact, Bushey was a suspect for simple shoplifting, but he could have been anyone. Cuffing and a pat down were still not justified, but even if they were, doing so inside the restaurant – and a bathroom, at that – could potentially cause more problems than it would solve. Per department policy, they escorted him outside for questioning, away from bystanders. Sgt. Green and Officer Griffin understood perfectly the potential volatility of the offender, and you’ll notice that Griffin stays behind as Green and Bushey leave the bathroom. Green using his arm to hold the door open, giving himself a blocking option while freeing Griffin’s hands up as Bushey passes by. Green steps outside and faces Bushey in interview stance. Griffin insists they all move outside, no doubt from processing body language and pre-fight indicators of Bushey, as well as not wanting to make a scene in the dining area.

From Green’s camera, it appears that he turns his back on the suspect. True, but walking backwards to the exit was hardly a practical option. We see him make distance, his head tilting to the left to gain periphery vision while walking. One EXTREMELY important note: As he passes an empty table, he pushes the silverware away from the aisle – a knife clearly visible – in my opinion, an indicator he smelled something serious brewing.

As they reach the exit, he again faces the offender, then, as they exit, holds the door while blading off and making distance. Griffin exits, hand on Taser, another indicator that she sensed it was going to go south.

Bushey produces a gun from his waist area (waistband or pocket – the video doesn’t show exactly, but it looks like it came from his pocket) with his right hand and lifts it up. Green goes hands on while Griffin draws her Taser yelling “Gun! Gun!” (You can see a moment of the yellow Taser pop up on Griffin’s video capture as Green begins firing. )

Green spins and pushes Bushey away, draws his gun, and begins firing when Bushey spins around back towards him. Green’s gun is equipped with a light/laser combination, and somehow he manages to activate the strobe and laser functions. Griffin holsters [assumed – it may have been dropped] her Taser, and then draws her gun and fires.

12 shots are fired – 9 by Green, 3 by Griffin. Bushey, as it ends up, had a BB gun.

There’s no question the officers both acted properly, even Griffin’s shots can be explained by understanding reaction times regarding mental processing and trigger actuation, as well as the confusion of not knowing if the shots were coming from Green or Bushey’s guns. Her mind was in “need to shoot gun now!” mode as she was diching the Taser and accessing her service pistol. She stopped shooting the moment (again, my opinion) her mind registered that Bushey was no longer a threat.

The question of why she drew her Taser first instead of gun may be as simple as that’s what her hand was on and what she had her mind on doing. Or, perhaps she was concerned about her partner being in the line of fire.

 

Points regarding body cameras

The public was starting to repeat rumors regarding the case, such as it was a bad shoot and Bushey was murdered by the police. The Palestine PD made the decision to release the video only after the Grand Jury returned No Bill on both officers, as body camera video should not be made public during ongoing investigation and legal proceedings. The principles of a fair trial and justice are at risk when a video is prematurely released, as such could taint Jury pools and witness testimony. Imagine the police shooting a gang member and the face of a bystander is on the body cam video. Not only will release of the video put the witness’ life at risk, it may cause them to hide and ignore a subpoena rather than surface in public. Camera video is EVIDENCE. We’ll get to see it, maybe, when the proper time arrives. Due process is the first priority, not appeasing the mob.

Body cams can be helpful, but they still only capture one small window of one single angle of any event. We can’t be surprised when a single body cam feed doesn’t line up with the officer’s report or forensic evidence. Even my own analysis here involves some educated guesses, as there are things that are simply not seen by the video. We have no idea where the officer’s eyes are looking vs the camera frame, what they are thinking, or what their body alarm matrix has done to their perceptions, e.g. tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, heart rate, etc…

When Green’s video first appeared online, people were assuming he fired ALL the shots. The strobe of his light made it very hard for the untrained eye to tell if his gun was firing or not. Griffin’s video makes that very clear. There was also criticism of Green for “taking too long to draw.” Griffin’s video shows him going hands on and pushing Bushey away to create distance to draw.

Many accused Griffin of hesitating. “Her gun was up but she didn’t fire!”, claimed one commentator. Such statements are made by those who have done a poor job of analyzing the video and failed to notice she was gripping her Taser when Green first fires.

Synced video of both cameras

 

Analysis of video is often problematic when we don’t know what we’re looking at or looking for. When coupled with the human emotional filter, people rarely form the correct conclusion about what they are seeing. And often that translates to falsehoods and misinformation perpetuated by the mob.

All of us are welcome to our opinions, just keep in mind that the vast majority of our opinions are wrong.

 

“I can provide a witness who didn’t see me at the scene of the crime. That witness can also prove they didn’t see me anywhere else either, thus showing that I didn’t exist at that moment in time.”Jarod Kintz, 99 Cents For Some Nonsense