A dashcam video clip at the center of a lawsuit shows St. Louis police abruptly turning off the camera before they continue to assault an 18-year-old man, with one officer heard to announce, “Hold up, everybody, hold up. We’re red right now, so if you guys are worried about cameras, just wait.”
The video shows Cortez Bufford being dragged from his car before he is repeatedly shocked with a taser and kicked by officers.
At least seven officers pile on Bufford while he is being kicked and tased. Officers later claimed he was resisting arrest.
Although the struggle seems to be over and Bufford appears to be subdued, Officer Kelli Swinton approaches his colleague’s patrol car before announcing to the other cops, “Hold up. Hold up, y’all. Hold up. Hold up, everybody, hold up. We’re red right now, so if you guys are worried about cameras, just wait.”
“Red” is cop slang for a running camera. The camera’s audio then goes silent before the video stops altogether seconds later.
According to Bufford’s attorneys, their client “got banged up pretty good” after the camera was turned off. Dashcam footage from a separate vehicle shows officers continuing to huddle around Bufford but then that footage also shuts off. After a two minute gap, “Bufford is seen on it again, stumbling and falling once as he’s taken to a police vehicle,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Bufford’s lawyer Joel Schwartz asserts that the initial reason for the stop, reports of shots fired, was unconnected to Bufford who was pulled over for performing a legal U-turn. A 9mm pistol was recovered from Bufford’s vehicle.
“While police have refused to comment on the officers turning off their video, they have stood by the use of force in regards to the incident. Had they not turned off the cameras, police probably would have had a case against Bufford; instead their insidiousness got the best of these cops,” writes Matt Agorist.
The charges against Bufford for unlawful use of a weapon and resisting arrest were dropped and he is now seeking damages from four of the officers involved in the incident, which occurred on April 10 last year. Bufford suffered abrasions to his fingers, face, back, head, ears and neck, and incurred medical bills of $6,439.32, according to the lawsuit.
There have been many previous examples where dashcams have been mysteriously turned off before suspects are beaten, but officers normally claim that they “malfunctioned”.