But even camera footage can be misleading. A man in Colorado had charges of drug and weapon possession against him dropped last week after it was revealed the officer who arrested him allegedly “recreated” body cam footage of the search of his car, according to the Associated Press.
The U.S. District Attorney’s Office filed a motion to dismiss the case, which was granted Thursday, after Officer Seth Jensen texted a deputy district attorney about his testimony in a hearing on March 22.
In that hearing, Jensen told the court that Joseph Cajar was pulled over in November 2016, and that Cajar could not provide a license or registration for his vehicle. Cajar’s car was towed and later searched, and Jensen found several grams of heroin, a handgun, a scale with traces of heroin on it and a pill bottle containing amphetamine residue, according to the Pueblo Chieftain.
During that March hearing, footage of the search was shown in court, according to Ars Technica, who interviewed Joe Koncilja, Cajar’s lawyer. According to Koncilja, Jensen acted surprised in the video when he found the gun.
But in the texts following that hearing, Jensen allegedly revealed that he was not surprised at all.
“Prior to turning my body cam on I conducted the search. Once I found the s---, I stepped back, called (a fellow officer), then activated my body cam and walked the courts through it,” Jensen wrote, according to the Chieftain.
The deputy district attorney to whom Jensen sent the text wrote back, telling him he would need to file a supplemental report explaining that the footage was a “reenactment.” When it was shown it court, it was presented as a real-time search.
“Everyone who looked at the video believed it was in-time documentation of what actually happened,” Koncilja told Ars Technica. “It’s tampering with evidence.”
The deputy district attorney told the prosecutors in charge of Cajar’s case about Jensen’s texts, and they in turn told Koncilja. The prosecutors then agreed to drop the felony charges of possession with intent to manufacture or distribute a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance, possession of a weapon by a previous offender and special offender, per the Chieftain.
According to the Associated Press, Pueblo Police Deputy Chief Troy Davenport has said the case is being investigated and Jensen could face discipline. In 2015, Jensen was honored by the department for taking part in a Nike commercial featuring Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
This is not the first time Jensen has been involved in a controversial incident recently, however. On April 14, Jensen was one of four police officers who responded to a call from a local woman, Leslie Hanson, who said a man was in her yard at 5 a.m. behaving erratically. When police arrived, Hanson’s service dog, a pit bull named Crios, approached the fence.
According to Jensen, who later wrote the official police report, the dog growled and charged at a fellow officer. That officer backpedaled then shot the dog several times, grazing another officer with one bullet, per the Denver Post. According to Hanson, however, her dog was not attacking anyone but merely looking for her and “growled at most” at the officers. She said Crios was shot six times and was later euthanized.
The Pueblo Police Department later issued a statement supporting the responding officers’ actions.