by Kerry Dougherty
On Monday, Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate did something unusual: he released a video showing the fatal shooting of 28-year-old suspected car thief, Deshawn Whitaker, in a strip mall parking lot last week.
Police are usually loathe to release dash cam and body cam footage in the immediate aftermath of a shooting, no matter how justified the killing.
Neudigate broke with protocol, he explained, to dispel false reports circulating that the dead man and his female passenger were unarmed and that Whitaker didn’t receive prompt medical attention.
Typical anti-cop rhetoric that spreads through the community any time a criminal is killed. You can see spectators gathering in the video.
In fact, both the driver and passenger had guns and posed an immediate danger to the officer. Oh, and fire fighters – who are also paramedics – arrived on the scene during the five-minute video.
While the chief wanted to tamp down inflammatory anti-police rumors, the video does more. It gives the viewer an eyewitness account of the chaotic and dangerous life of a Beach police officer.
The Youtube video contains both the dash cam account and the body cam. Taken together they record a potentially fatal encounter for the officer.
The dash cam begins with a sunny, peaceful November day. A black SUV drives through the parking lot and an automatic license plate reader apparently alerts the officer to a stolen vehicle that had been involved in a police chase the day before. The officer follows the car slowly and pulls his cruiser behind it, blocking it into a parking space.
The cop approaches the driver and is about to handcuff the man when the guy – Whitaker – runs off, dropping a bag on the pavement.
Hmmmm. I wonder what’s in the sack. Nothing good I bet.
The officer briefly pursues the suspect and then turns his attention to the female passenger, Jacqueline Ortiz, who’s out of the car. She struggles when he attempts to handcuff her. Ortiz clearly has a handgun in the waistband of her pants and repeatedly tries to grab for it.
If I’m the officer, I figure she wants to shoot me with the pistol.
Suddenly, Whitaker reappears, points his gun at the officer who then fires at him four times. Whitaker’s gun is clearly visible on the pavement where he fell. He died later that night.
The investigation into the shooting is ongoing, the officer is on administrative leave and the chief has visited Whitaker’s family to deliver condolences.
But the fact is, this is a police officer doing his job, which involves chasing hairballs who steal cars around town.
He wants to get home to his family at the end of his shift and two people with guns seem determined to kill him.
The scene is chaotic. The language is rough. Ortiz is lucky she wasn’t shot. She’s been charged with possession of stolen property, possession of a firearm after a domestic violence conviction and brandishing a firearm.
I’m surprised resisting arrest isn’t in there. Perhaps more charges are coming.
Watch the video.
We don’t pay these guys in blue enough.
This column has been republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed & Unedited.