Police shooting unresolved two years later, showing importance of cameras

After two years, the Worcester County District Attorney's Office still has not closed its investigation of the fatal shooting of 43-year-old Victor Davila. Davila was killed in Worcester two years ago yesterday when a state trooper who had been on the job for just three months fired a shot through the windshield of a stolen car he was driving. One year after the shooting occurred, the Telegram & Gazette reported that the district attorney's office still had not reached a conclusion on whether the shooting was justified:

The investigation remains open because a woman who was in the car at the time has refused to speak to state police detectives about what happened that morning at the intersection of Chandler and Irving streets, DA's office spokesman Paul Jarvey said.

"Up to this point, the investigation has determined that State Trooper Ryan Doyle was in fear for his life as the vehicle moved toward him, and he acted in self defense," Mr. Jarvey said. "There was no criminal responsibility on the part of the trooper, and the use of lethal force was justified under the circumstances."

However, some people who live in the area told reporters a different version of events the morning of the shooting.

Two witnesses said they saw the trooper standing in front of the car, a Honda Accord, as the driver tried to back up and flee. They said the trooper yelled repeatedly for the man to stop and then fired into the car when he did not comply.

The witnesses said that once the trooper opened the driver's door and pulled the man out, the car coasted forward into a small tree.

Trooper Doyle was returned to duty a few days after the shooting and remains assigned to the Holden Barracks, where he works the overnight shift, said state police spokesman David Procopio.

Mr. Davila's friends and family continue to believe the woman who was in the car, whom they know only as Yomaira, holds answers to what happened that morning.

"I want her to come forward and get this over with. We want justice, to find out why the person had to kill him," said Marie Carmona of Worcester, the mother of Mr. Davila's eldest daughter, 13-year-old Ashley.

Yesterday, the Worcester County District Attorney's Office confirmed that the case is still considered unresolved.

"That investigation of that has not been completed," said Tim Connolly, the Communications Director for the district attorney's office.

I think this shooting is a good example of why police departments should be requiring their officers to use cameras. If this shooting was captured on video, the truth about this shooting could have been determined in a few minutes, regardless of whether or not any witnesses came forward.

A majority of police departments have already equipped their police cruisers with dashboard-mounted cameras. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 61% of local police departments and 67% of sheriff’s departments used dashcams in 2007.

Last year, the state police confirmed in response to a public records request that they do not have cameras installed in any of their vehicles, but this wouldn't have made a difference in this particular case anyway. According to the Telegram, Doyle's cruiser was parked around the corner from where the shooting happened, so a dashcam wouldn't have recorded it.

What might have helped is if the state police used body cameras, which are still rare but are being used by an increasing number of police departments. These cameras are attached to an article of clothing, allowing police to record virtually everything the officer wearing it sees. If the state police had outfitted Doyle with a bodycam, the district attorney's office probably would have reached a conclusion in a matter of days, not years.