Reconstruction of Shooting Using Audio for a Timeline

Jul 18, 2016

In this day and age, it seems that just about every event is captured by video either via surveillance cameras or cell phones. Once a video’s frame rate is established it is not difficult to create a timeline of events. However, in this case we don’t have the ability to create or piece together a timeline from video as we have an audio file from a 911 call that lasted throughout the events presented at trial. Armed only with this audio and witness statements, PSI was tasked to create an animation of the event.

The Scenario

In early June, 2014, a man calls 911 to report that his younger sister, whom is a schizophrenic, has been refusing her medication, yelling at their parents and is acting out. He requests assistance from paramedics to help her calm down and resume her medication. The caller remains on the phone with 911 for the duration of the incident, (approximately 13 minutes).

Prior to the arrival of any emergency responders, the caller tells the 911 operator that his sister had picked up a knife and was outside the house and is even more agitated.

A sheriff’s deputy was made aware of this development via radio dispatch, arrives and parks his patrol car around the far corner, as his partner was still in route.

As the deputy approaches the scene, the agitated young woman, armed with a knife begins running toward him, wielding the knife and screaming. After yelling for the woman to stop, which is heard on the deputy’s radio transmission, the deputy retreats toward his patrol car as the woman continues to pursue him. As the deputy runs past his patrol car, he turns and again commands the woman to stop. She continues her pursuit, closing the distance between her and the deputy with the knife raised overhead.

The deputy fires a single shot, fatally wounding the woman.

The Challenge.

Reconstruct the event with sufficient fidelity to the forensic evidence to ensure the resulting 3D animation is admitted at trial. Adding to this challenge, the initial scene drawing is incorrect in critical areas and details that witnesses used as landmarks in their testimony.

A final challenge to the case; the assailant who pursued the deputy was 5 feet tall, weighed 200 pounds and suffered from a birth defect that effectively gave her a “club foot”. The prevailing theory for the defense was that this defect precluded the young girl from moving in a normal fashion and this would prove to be a contentious issue as the analysis unfolds. In addition, the assailant’s family testified that the deputy “lunged” at the assailant prompting her to pursue him and that the assailant walked slowly/limped towards the deputy, contradicting the deputy’s testimony that she was running after him at a speed that precluded him from getting safely away.

The Solution

Develop a timeline for the event based on the synchronization and analysis of the recordings of the 911 call and the radio traffic between the deputy and dispatch. Use 3D laser scanning of the scene and laser assisted photogrammetry to create an accurate 3D working model, (replacing the inaccurate drawing created by the police department and used in every deposition).

Use the synchronized audio recordings, witness testimony and analysis of the physical evidence in order to illustrate the key people’s actions, locations and movements.

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Craig Fries

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Craig Fries is the Founder and President of Precision Simulations, Inc., the foremost forensic analysis and animation firm in the US. In this role he has created or directed over 1,000 3D forensic animations for use in criminal and civil litigation and has maintained a 100% record of non-exclusion at trial. As a pioneer in the field of forensic laser scanning, Craig created the first 3D animation based upon laser scan data ever admitted at trial in the US, and has been at the forefront of the use of the technology in homicide and accident investigation since.


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