While it’s becoming more common for police video to become public, there are often unanswered questions that emerge with those videos, especially when it’s an officer-involved shooting. That’s the case with a man named Iaroslav Mosiiuk who was shot and killed by police in March. The body camera footage of that shooting was released last week. WFAE's Sarah Delia joins Morning Edition host Marshall Terry to examine some of the questions that arise from that video.
Marshell Terry: Sarah this shooting happened about five months ago, the DA said it was justified, why are we still interested in this case?
Sarah Delia: In this case, there are questions around responding to a call where mental health is an issue and some of the body camera footage brings those questions to the surface. For example, we see police appearing to ignore his sister's attempts to talk to them, plus there are other questions about police protocol around administering CPR. In this case, they actually dragged his body a short distance away before administering CPR.
MT: Let's start with how police communicated with Mosiiuk's sister.
SD: When Olesya Tabaka called 911, she gave some pretty important information: that her brother hadn’t slept in days, he was having a break down and that he has a gun but it's missing parts. The dispatch tape to officers clearly mentions this is a suicide call. The video tape starts as they’re approaching the house on foot. Tabaka pulls up in her car at this point. In the 911 call, she says she had left the house because she was scared. Most of what we know from the officer’s perspective comes from interviews CMPD conducted shortly after the shooting that are available in the DA’s report. Officer Walsh says they did notice her, but he says they didn’t stop and talk to her because they didn’t realize she was the sister and they didn’t want to turn their backs to the house in case someone came out shooting.
You do hear Tabaka in the videos attempting to talk to officers, but that was after Mosiiuk came out with a gun. It’s 15 seconds later that Officer Brian Walsh shoots Mosiiuk, it all happens pretty fast.
We did ask CMPD questions about this video they pointed us to their police directives. To get more context we reached out to Seth Stoughton a former officer who’s a law professor at University of South Carolina who studies police video and procedures. He watched both of the videos. First, he said communication from the 911 call to the dispatcher to the police officers is sort of like a game of telephone so it’s easy for something to get lost in translation. That’s why it would have been important to talk to Mosiiuk’s sister upon arrival,p. Of course, they would have had to stop walking to the house and ask who she was.
Seth Stoughton: I’m not talking about a 2 hour interview. That info can be gathered relatively quickly. You call the complainant to a position of relative safety behind a vehicle. And you say 'tell me about his mental state, has he attempted suicide before? Any indications of violence or intention to commit suicide by cop?'
MT: Let’s talk about the footage showing CPR…it doesn’t look very good, officers are almost dragging Mosiiuk from where he was shot.
SD: First, officers are supposed to secure the weapon and then cuff the individual—this is for the officer’s safety, which makes sense. That was pretty much by the book in the footage. Again, here’s Stoughton:
Seth Stoughton: But the optics of that are awful. You just shot someone and now you’re going to handcuff them? That doesn’t look good. But that’s the reality of use of force, even the best use of force...even the best, most justified use of lethal force looks awful.
MT: So why do they pick him up, why not do CPR right where he was shot?
SD: Mosiiuk was shot in front of his sister’s house. Officer Dezenzo said they were protecting themselves, while administering CPR, since they don’t know if there’s anyone else in the house. Stoughton says although moving him delays the time in which they start to administer aid and that they could accidentally injure him further, it’s a balancing act. Police need to move him to a safe spot to do CPR. You can hear Officer Denenzo say something along the lines of “let’s use the car for cover” which is referencing a CMPD car they put Mosiiuk in front of. This way they have some protection. In his interview, Officer Dezenzo says he used a modified fireman’s drag.
Stoughton says police were likely worried about getting blood on them. Officers weren’t gloved at that point and Mosiiuk was shot in the back. Stoughton says the way they carried him appears to be the fastest way they could so they could start doing CPR.
MT: And lastly, Sarah, police are heard saying a certain phrase over and over relating to their body cameras…
SD: Yes, in both videos officers are heard saying, “I’m hot,” or “Just to let you know, I’m hot.” And they aren’t talking about temperature here, they are letting other officers who approach them know that their body camera is still rolling.
MT: That’s interesting...
SD: It’s like being a journalist—when we let people know we are recording, they may talk differently or say something different than they would otherwise. When police know they are being recorded, they get to have some control over the narrative the body cam footage is telling. Here’s Seth Stoughton:
Seth Stoughton: There’s a whole interesting story right there about the way officers use their body cameras and are aware of and make other officers aware so that they cannot just use the camera for something but also getting info on body camera that they want to and not getting information on the camera that they might not want to.
It’s not necessarily a bad or good thing, but when officers consistently give other officers a heads up …it sticks out.
MT: WFAE’s Sarah Delia, thanks very much.
SD: Thanks, Marshall.