SOUTH EUCLID, OH- Two police officers from the South Euclid Ohio Police Department who were part of a police involved shooting captured on a WOLFCOM 3RD EYE Police Body Camera recently spoke with WOLFCOM about their experience. The incident happened on Oct. 18th 2014 in South Euclid Ohio. Police Officer Steve Wilson and Sgt. Rick Friedl responded to a call involving a home invasion and found a male suspect stabbing a women with a kitchen knife. The incident was captured on video and that video helped clear Officer Wilson of any charges of wrong doing. Below is the story in their own words. Lt. Jim Wilson was instrumental in purchasing the WOLFCOM 3RD EYE police body cameras for his department. “I’ve always wanted to get cameras for our officers. In years past, the technology and the funding just weren’t there. In the beginning… only a handful of our officers were in favor of the body worn cameras,” said Lt. Wilson.
Sgt. Rick Friedl and Officer Steve Wilson were actually opposed to the cameras at first. “When we first got the body cameras, I was against them. I’m on the force for 22 years and didn’t think we needed them in police work in general,” said Friedl.
“I didn’t think we needed them either. Most police officers don’t like change at all, and this was a big change. Within a few hours of when I received my body camera, the incident happened,” said Officer Wilson. In only a few short hours their attitudes on the cameras would change dramatically. Friedl recounts the nights events. “About 4:13AM we received a 911 call from a resident saying they heard a door being kicked in, glass breaking and an alarm going off…. I arrived on the scene and Officer Wilson arrived a few seconds later… We went to the back door and heard a female screaming for help. I radioed in that we heard a women screaming, within 30 seconds of that is when the shooting happened. Officer Wilson and I entered… We turned the corner and see the male suspect on top of the female all I hear is her yelling “please don’t let him kill me” and the suspect is struggling with her on the ground,” said Friedl.
“I see the suspect on top of the female and I see an object in his hand and that he’s trying to push it down into her… When you watch the video, you see there’s a moment when I’m trying to identify what the suspect has in his hand… it was dark in the room and hard to make out at first… and once I determined it was a bladed object, I started to say out loud “Knife” but I couldn’t get a word out… It’s good that you can see everything that happened on the video in real time and how serious the situation was,” said Officer Wilson. “What the camera shows is the infrared night vision view… all we saw at the time was only lit by our flashlights and the backlight of the kitchen,” said Friedl.
When the suspect continued to stab the women and yelled out “kill me, kill me,” Officer Wilson fired two rounds striking him in the neck and shoulder. “When you review the video you see the knife really clearly. The knife was an 8 inch kitchen knife… the tip of the knife was broken off into her knee and the handle had broken off so all he had was the middle section of the blade, which we learned later had been embedded into his hand during the struggle,” said Officer Wilson.
“This was one of the most clear cut videos I’ve ever seen with regards to a police involved shooting. The video was so clear, it couldn’t have been any more descriptive if the media was standing directly over the officer’s shoulder shooting it. The camera captured everything, including the suspect saying, “Kill me, kill me!” The way that the officers handled themselves in this situation was textbook and professional from start to finish, as evidenced by the video,” said Lt. Wilson.
“With everything that was going on at the time in the news, the riots in Ferguson, I was very thankful that I had the camera on…and I’ve heard from everyone who saw the video that what we had to do was the right thing. It’s [the WOLFCOM 3RD EYE] a great tool… you can see the way it really was in real time,” said Officer Wilson. “The body camera video was critical without a doubt in this situation, especially with what’s going on around the country with other police involved deadly force incidents where there is no video evidence. I am afraid to speculate on what may have happened if we didn’t have that video of the shooting and it was just the officer’s account of what happened that night,” said Lt. Wilson.
“The video left no room for doubt as to what happened… words can not express how valuable it is as a tool. That changed my whole thinking on the cameras. Now I have one with me all the time because you never know when you’re going to need it. A body camera is an invaluable tool and every officer should have one to protect themselves,” said Friedl.
Months after the incident, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor and the Chief of Police held a press conference, where they played the video in the presence of the media and held a follow up question and answer session afterwards.
“Because of the video evidence, there were very few questions about what took place. There were some people that questioned, “Why didn’t the officer just shoot him in the leg or Taser him just to warn him?” It was explained to them that this was clearly a lethal force situation, and the victim’s life was without question in immediate danger. No police officers are trained to shoot someone to warn them when there is an immediate danger that the victim will sustain serious physical harm or death. There simply was no room for error in this case. Once that question was answered, there were no further questions asked,” said Lt. Wilson.
“Once the grand jury cleared me of any wrong doing, it was over. The story was only out for a day and it went away. I’m sure if there had been no video or there were lingering questions, we would have been in the news for months. It’s also helpful for the public to see it the way we saw it and know that we’re there to help them in these life and death situations,” said Officer Wilson. “The fate of an officer involved in a deadly force incident rests in the hands of the grand jury. Without video evidence, they must make their decision based solely upon the officer’s testimony and whatever additional evidence there may be. The fact that there’s a video gives the officers peace of mind that the grand jury will see the truth of what actually took place,” explained Lt. Wilson
“A properly worn body camera which displays what the police officer was experiencing simply takes 90% of the guesswork out of a situation. In today’s society, everyone else has video cameras, cell phones etc. Why shouldn’t the police have them as well? Whose video would you rather have displayed in court, some blurry cell phone video from a bystander that could potentially be altered, or secured video evidence directly from the body of the officers involved? The bottom line is, if an officer is out there doing what they’re supposed to be doing, that camera’s only going to help them. If they’re not, then shame on them,” said Lt. Wilson.
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