On July 22nd, the Maricopa County Prosecutor announced that no charges would be filed against Officer Austin Shipley in the shooting death of Loreal Tsingine.
Now the Winslow Police Department, who Shipley works for, has released the bodycam footage of that fatal encounter. Although several news outlets were given the full video of the shooting, the portion of the video that was released to the general public ends just prior to the actual shooting of Tsingine by Shipley.
A short audio clip was also included at the end, which was recorded (presumably by the body camera) after the shooting and depicts Shipley’s reaction to having shot Tsingine. Without any explanation, the beginning of the video prior to the shooting has the audio removed. Some additional audio consisting of Shipley explaining to another officer why he shot Tsingine (“I did what I had to do!”) can be heard in this news report. (It is also embedded below.)
Even before the release of the video, this shooting had caused plenty of controversy. Among other things, members of the Navajo Nation, to which Tsingine belonged, as well as other indigenous tribal members, have questioned the amount of shootings by police of Native Americans. Statistically, Native Americans are the most common victims per capita of any demographic group of police violence.
There have also been questions regarding the dismissive behavior of the police toward witnesses and claims of refusal to give medical care to Tsingine immediately after the shooting. One of those witnesses, Ryanle Benally, made this statement to 12News.com:
Benally ran to the scene and said he was offering to help Tsingine.
“I told the officer, “I know CPR, I can help her,” but he told me step back, sir, and he pushed me,” he said.
A short while later, Benally said he approached a Navajo County Sheriff’s officer and told him he was a witness. That officer brought over an officer with the Winslow Police Department who, Benally said, took down his information and said he would contact him soon.Benally said he stayed at the scene and told a Winslow [olice officer he witnessed the shooting and wanted to make a statement, but the officer did not act.
Hours later, Benally said he had not heard from the police department and called to ask about making a statement, but was told over the phone that all officers were busy at the moment.
A fourth attempt was made several hours later when Benally made another phone call to the department, but a statement was never taken.
Additionally questions have arisen about Officer Shipley’s history of excessive force complaints during his three years with the Winslow Police Dept. and accusations of dishonesty in describing the circumstances surrounding previous use of force incidents. According toNativeNewsOnline.net, that history included:
- The Winslow police officer once fired a Taser at a 15-year-old girl as she walked away from him.
- He once Tased a drunk cuffed to a hospital bed.
- He dragged a DUI suspect out of her car by her hair.
- He justified his conduct in one instance in a report that an investigator found “simply inaccurate.”
Here is an account in the newspaper’s article:
“Shipley’s narrative that the subject on the ground ‘got back in a manner as if they wanted to fight back’ is clearly inaccurate,” the investigating officer wrote. “In observation, they were not acting in an aggressive manner, even after his arrival and were not involved in any verbal exchanges.”
What is most disturbing is Shipley received only a one-day suspension for his misconduct.
The newly released video brings with it new questions of why it would have been necessary to shoot Tsingine. Even taking into account the fact she had a (small) pair of scissors in her hand, Shipley already had his gun out and ready to use (obviously) at the time and there was still distance between them. (The “21 foot rule” is often incorrectly characterized as an authorization to open fire at will. In reality, it actually states that if someone is within that distance you should have your gun out and aimed at the subject in preparation. And that applies to an actual edged weapon. What she was holding was a pair of medical scissors, which it would be a huge stretch to classify as a real weapon, as you can see by the photo.)
In addition, the fact there is another cop approaching behind Tsingine at the time brings into question why two men of significantly larger size couldn’t control her in the first place. The other officer is close enough to her at the time Shipley fired five shots at Tsingine that reportedly he can be seen diving out of the way on the full video once the shooting begins.
Members of the Navajo Tribe, as well as other anti-police brutality activists in and around Winslow, have already questioned the circumstances surrounding the shooting of Tsingine. Several protests have been held already and the combination of the prosecutor’s announcement that no charges would be filed against Shipley and the release of this video ensure that more questions and protests will follow.