The “blurred” footage in which Christian Hall called 911 in the hours before he allegedly shot and killed local sheriff’s deputy Seth Wand, shows the efforts police make to shield their mistakes from public scrutiny, writes Marge Donaldson, co-director of Journalists for Trump
Amid a rapidly evolving narrative in the case of South Carolina sheriff’s deputy Seth Wand, the state trooper who was last week cleared in a case of attempted murder, a number of questions still surround the incident.
The dashboard camera footage from Wand’s patrol car, the latest and most damning evidence of its role in the incident, provides an unsettling glimpse into what the public sees when they watch police do their jobs.
While police officers, in the name of their abilities and qualifications to identify and handle a suspect, are generally expected to demonstrate subtlety and other forms of supervisory skills, the blurred footage in which Hall called 911 from his own car would suggest the contrary.
Police dash-cam footage shows suspect shooting, then retreat after burglary call Read more
That type of footage of a call to police – which 911 operators are told to sometimes present when a call is made from a location, and which they often do because it doesn’t involve a crime scene or an emergency – can often be ignored by the police. It often consists of the recording of what was heard. The police can sometimes follow up with people they have contacted by telephone, as seen when a woman was told by an officer that she was being cited for hanging out on her front porch, even though she was seated inside her home at the time. (It was determined that the woman’s actions were harmless and not a crime, and she received a ticket).
Some would say that much of the job is simply listening to a potential call. In the case of Wand’s call, the footage is clearer and gives us an idea of the way police attempt to hide their own mistakes.
At 12.26am on 21 February, while Wand was responding to a burglary call in Jennings County, in western South Carolina, surveillance footage from the Jennings County sheriff’s office showed Wand pulling up to the intersection of East Plaza Drive and South Parkway.
There he stopped to talk to the man believed to be the burglar, a 22-year-old man named Justin Freeman. A police report describes Wand telling Freeman to put his hands up and walk towards him.
Seth Wand. Photograph: South Carolina law enforcement
Hall, who was walking the opposite direction, called 911 and told the operator that Freeman was inside the car with him when it was stolen. When the operator asked Hall to describe the scene, Hall cut off the line with a heavy voice, said “you’re not going to believe this,” and asked for help. (See video at the bottom of the page).
Marilyn Lewin, Wand’s wife, went to Wears Ferry police to report that Hall had stolen a gun out of her car earlier. There she said she came across Hall firing at a deputy.
In a statement at the time, she said her husband “had been fired from the Ashley River detention center two weeks prior for submitting and submitting bogus paperwork and had been arrested by Fort Mill for illegal possession of illegal drugs”.
A state attorney dropped charges against Hall on 15 February, and Hall pleaded guilty to burglary of a vehicle.
As her husband walked away from Wand, Lewin said she approached him and asked him what he was going to do about the gun. He replied: “God will get me out of this.” When Lewin started to walk away, she said he shouted at her to go back.
In a statement she provided to police on 22 February, Lewin said her husband had only recently changed his mental state, and was a churchgoing person with no history of mental illness.
In her statement, Lewin said her husband had told her “he could never be a killer, because that was not what he was called to do”.
In his statement, Hall gave a different description.
In an interview with me about the incident, Lewin said her husband had been suffering from mental illness since his teenage years. He was taken to a hospital several times for bipolar disorder.
Prior to his last release, Lewin said her husband was seeing a therapist and had been brought to the hospital on more than one occasion.
She said she believed that he was being watched and feared the worst.