Body Cameras

Why Did U.S. Marshals Shoot at a Man 76 Times? Don't Look to Video for an Answer

The feds still haven't implemented body cameras for their own law enforcement officers.

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Robinson
Family Photo

The mother of Jamarion Robinson wants to know why U.S. Marshals felt the need to shoot at him 76 times in a deadly encounter in East Point, Georgia, last August.

She'll probably never get answers she can trust, partly because her son is dead but also because none of the marshals were wearing body cameras. The incident is a reminder that, even though the Department of Justice has been providing grants to municipal police departments to purchase and implement body cameras, it is not following its own example. Federal law enforcement officers are not wearing body cameras.

In August, a U.S. Marshals task force attempted to apprehend Robinson, wanted for attempted arson and for aggravated assault on police in Atlanta. His mother told Atlanta's NBC affiliate Robinson had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. He had apparently poured gasoline on the floor in his home a few weeks before this incident and later pointed a gun at police officers in Atlanta before running off. The marshals were asked by local police to assist in arresting Robinson for these previous incidents.

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Robinson had a gun and shot at marshals when they came to arrest him. He ignored orders to drop the gun. It's not clear from the report who fired first, but evidence indicates Robinson did fire his gun. The marshals shot back, and while they don't know how many shots were fired in total, a medical examiner said had been struck 76 times all over his body, including his hands and feet. Furthermore, an investigator hired by Robinson's family said he found two bullets lodged straight down into the floor where Robinson's body was found. (Note that there's some confusion in reporting here: Another news outlet says he was struck around 20 times.)

It may very well have been justified for marshals to open fire on Robinson. But body cameras could have made it clear that Robinson shot first and could have explained why so many shots were fired in a way a vague, passive-voice police account could not. But even though the Department of Justice supports such transparency, the federal government is lagging behind the municipal law enforcement agencies its funding.

Though we've also seen that local police have unfortunately been finding ways to bypass recording. There were local police on the scene at this encounter. Their police cars normally have dash cameras, but on this particular day they were driving new cars that didn't have the cameras outfitted yet, according to the NBC report.

But even if they had cameras, the U.S. Marshals would not have let the officers use them. Because the feds have not come up with their own rules yet for camera use, they're instructing local agencies that they can't have body cameras on when they're doing joint arrest or task forces with the marshals.

Now, with Donald Trump as our president-elect, it's worth wondering and worrying about whether any of the federal law enforcement agencies will implement body cameras at all. Trump, who has bought into the false narrative that there's a "war on police," was endorsed by the national Fraternal Order of Police. The Fraternal Order of Police has praised the possibility of Sen. Jeff Sessions, a drug warrior who supports civil asset forfeiture and opposes sentencing reform, as Trump's attorney general pick. Given that police unions have been incredibly resistant to the implementation of body cameras, it may be a challenge to get the Department of Justice to join the camera club, and we may see much less pressure or financial assistance for local police agencies to do the same.

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81 responses to “Why Did U.S. Marshals Shoot at a Man 76 Times? Don't Look to Video for an Answer

  1. Sounds like a good shoot. This is not the kind of incident to question if you hope to persuade people to oppose police abuses.

    1. Reason is really reaching for some of these stories, aren’t they?

      1. They seem to have this crazy idea that blacks are people or something.

        1. The US Marshals use butterfly nets to catch white fugitives.

          1. To be fair, it’s hard for one-armed men to use firearms.

        2. Listen, it’s quite simple. Don’t want to be shot 76 times like a thug? Don’t be schizophrenic like a thug.

          1. And what led him to make this choice to be schizophrenic? Single motherdom.

          2. “Furthermore, an investigator hired by Robinson’s family said he found two bullets lodged straight down into the floor where Robinson’s body was found. ”

            May be its just me, but I have less a problem with the quantity than I do the quality.

        3. The problem is that assuming it was 76 times and not the 20 quoted in other places the only issue with this is the number of times they shot and that only shows a training issue and poor firing discipline. The shoot as described here was otherwise entirely justified and complaining about it strengthens the argument that there is no problem with police militarization.

          1. Say it with me class: It’s not about the justification of the shoot, it’s about the fact that we have nothing to go on but the word of the people who shot the only potentially conflicting witness leaving no firm evidence as to exactly what happened.

            1. RTFA

              Witnesses and cell phone video

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    2. While I agree, it certainly sounds like the LEO’s were justified in using deadly force, shooting the suspect 76 times seems excessive. Considering that LEO’s, even Federal Marshals, do not have a reputation for accuracy, I have to wonder how many shots were fired, in total, to strike the target 76 times. How many misses, each representing a possible threat to others and, definitely, to property, were there? How many were through-and-through, also representing additional risk to others?

      This sounds more like panic fire than controlled retaliatory fire. And that is worrisome.

      1. 76…or 20, according to the family’s own lawyer. It was a 3 minute long gun battle.

        1. 3 minute long? That is ridiculous. The OK Corral was like 15 seconds. 76 or 20 bullets is a difference of a matter of seconds as well.

          1. But the Feds don’t have Doc Holiday.

    3. The guy was schizophrenic. Cops should be trained to take down dangerous mentally ill people with non-lethal means so they can get help. Ideally, before things escalate to this level. This is a sad story and a troubled young man is dead. The proper response should not be “good riddance” and “good shooting.”

      1. The proper response should not be “good riddance” and “good shooting.”

        Just what a cuck would say.

        Wait, no, that’s what any decent, civilized person would say.

        1. Robinson had a gun and shot at marshals when they came to arrest him. He ignored orders to drop the gun.

          1. A cuck is one who fellates the fuzz.

          2. Because we know that LEOs never fabricate facts out of thin air to deflect blame.

            No, never.

      2. Cops should be trained to take down EVERYONE with non-lethal force.

    4. “Sounds like a good shoot.”…
      Arguably, sure, if one chose to blindly latch onto the authoritative narrative without video evidence.
      Seems you’re missing a critical point of this piece: There is zero reason for the public to be presuming truth of a narrative absent video evidence from either side in encounters such as this. And there’s ample reason to question it.

      1. There is video evidence from witnesses.

    5. Hate to agree with SIV but this isn’t the hill to die on in regard to police abuses ect.

      I thought it was pretty well clear and established that standard procedure for a cop in a gunfight is to empty the clip. That’s why people get so riddled with bullets: 6-9 cops all emptying their clips at once; a real travesty would be someone reloading and firing at a corpse. It seems like that’s what people expect when they hear guy got 76 bullets but I really doubt that happens often.

      1. It’s almost as if the story isn’t about the police action itself, but the fact federal agents do not wear body cameras, and how that is unlikely to change in the future.

        But yes, let’s focus on what may or may not have happened.

        1. Pick a more sympathetic poster child for why the feds should wear body cams.

          1. Pretty white women with law-able names (Ailce’s Law, etc.) are pretty hard to come by in this context. So we’ll have to make do with what we got, ok?

            1. SIV wants them white and without too Jew-y of a name.

              1. And in one of those pointy 1950s bras.

        2. The point isn’t to make sure we know what happened when tragedy strikes, it’s to make sure we signal our support for our brave tyrants in blue. The jack booted thugs of the state are the true libertarian heroes.

    6. If you need 76 rounds to kill anything it’s not a good shoot on principle.

  2. Good shoot.

    Non-story from a libertarian angle.

    1. Replying to yourself doesn’t eliminate the lawn odor derp. 76 (or 20) shots makes it even more fishy. Bad guys get due process too. Cops have lied too many times to get a free ride just because they paniced and shot somebody so much; if anything, that makes it even more imperative to find out what really happened.

      1. There doesn’t seem to be any dispute that the deceased was a violent felon, US Marshals were serving a felony arrest warrant, and the deceased engaged in a gun battle ith the Marshals after refusing to surrender.

        The “other side of the story is:

        His mother, Monteria Robinson, said he had a slight frame and couldn’t imagine a situation where he wouldn’t have been cooperative with law enforcement.

        “He was a very kind-hearted person, very loving,” Robinson said. “He’s always kissing on our aunties. He has all our names tattooed on his body.”

        1. There is a shit-ton of dispute. Plenty of felons are arrested all day long without getting shot 76 times, and the “violent” is primarily because he was shot 76 times, as if the cops wouldn’t have done it otherwise.

          The charges against him are pretty mild for a violent felon: assault and arson.

          It’s only the police who say he shot first. That’s one of the primary reasons for having body cams. Damn that ought to be so obvious, but apparently you can esily elide right over that in your rush to proclaim good shoot.

          And if you want evidence of dispute, look around you, read some other comments. The very fact that you have to say there’s no dispute is evidence of you trying to shut down that dispute by pretending it doesn’t exist.

          1. It’s only the police who say he shot first.

            There is audio and video evidence from witnesses that he was told repeatedly to drop his weapon and surrender.

    2. Of course there is.
      Gov’t transparency and accountability, which is yet again lacking. Body cameras ought be a standard for public interactions with Gov’t authorities where violence may arise.

  3. Now somebody shoot the skwerlz.

    1. At least 76 times.

      1. With our without a camera?

  4. Yeah, I don’t see much of a problem here, assuming everything in the article is true (always an if). If he had pointed a gun at officers in the past and had a gun in hand during the shoot, then it seems like it was a good shoot. 76 rounds sounds like a lot, but it looks like they sent a platoon of LEOs after this guy. A dozen LEOs with guns could fire 76 rounds in a couple of seconds easily.

    I agree that all LEOs should be wearing cameras, but this is hardly the case to illustrate that point to anyone who isn’t already in the justice reform choir.

    1. Of course there is a problem unless one wants to accord undeserved credibility to the public sector shooters who have such a propensity to prevaricate.

    2. A dozen LEOs with guns could fire 76 rounds in a couple of seconds easily.

      It directly correlates with how fast they can shit their pants.

      Weird.

    3. assuming everything in the article is true

      If only there was some newfangled technology that would be able to determine what occurs during these shootings.

  5. I have mixed feelings about this case. I read the two news reports (and the press release from the GBI) and they clearly don’t agree. If his body had about 20 GSWs that wouldn’t necessary be unreasonable. If, however, the number truly is 76, that is over the top for these circumstances. He was wanted for attempted arson and assault. However, wasn’t the attempted arson the fact that he poured gasoline around himself? I don’t know about the pointing the gun at cops. It is tragic, that a kid like that didn’t get the help he needed. But, whose fault is that? At some point, people have to acknowledge that there are some bad guys out there with guns. And occasionally police do have to arrest real criminals. And when a guy shoots at the cops first (assuming he shot first), they are certainly justified.

    Having said all that, they absolutely should be wearing body cams, and I honestly don’t know about the private detective’s statement about the 2 shots from above. In a firefight like that, bullets are going in many directions, and can ricochet.

    1. He was wanted by both ATL and Gwinett PD. Those are big departments with all sorts of in-house tactical units. They handed it off to the US Marshals because they expected it would go down like this.

  6. Now, with Donald Trump as our president-elect, it’s worth wondering and worrying about whether any of the federal law enforcement agencies will implement body cameras at all. Trump, who has bought into the false narrative that there’s a “war on police,” was endorsed by the national Fraternal Order of Police. The Fraternal Order of Police has praised the possibility of Sen. Jeff Sessions, a drug warrior who supports civil asset forfeiture and opposes sentencing reform, as Trump’s attorney general pick

    Specific and legitimate concerns.

    1. Are you trying to make me miss Eric holder? Not gonna work. I may sob silently in a corner over the string of horrible AGs, but I won’t wish for any of the lot.

  7. The FBI won’t even tape record interviews/interrogations. The idea that they would wear body cameras is laughable.

  8. I find it odd to say that the legitimacy of the shooting should be the determining factor of whether or not we should be concerned about federal officials being hypocrites on body cameras.

    1. Same here. The point of due process is to keep the government honest or at lest accountable. 76 or 20 shots is panic, not even close to justified, and to take it the other way, to say the so many shots means it must have been ok, is to drop due process in the shitter and encourage cops to use excessive force more often.

      Cops have made up stories far too often to award free paid vacations to the winners in the outrageous panic category.

    2. We can’t care about rights when there’s bad guys involved, Scott. That’s how the bad guys win.

    3. Pick a more sympathetic poster child. Say a non-violent unarmed suspect, a misidentified individual or an innocent bystander.

      1. Say a non-violent unarmed suspect, a misidentified individual or an innocent bystander.

        So, in other words, Jamarion Robinson.

        Dutton said he could not confirm, however, that he was the same person who opened fire on police last week.

        1. He was still armed violent, wanted on felony warrants and so feared by 2 separate big police departments they farmed out the gig to the US Marshals.

  9. while they don’t know how many shots were fired in total

    It’s pretty easy there Marshals. You just subtract the number of bullets missing from your gun, from the total it can hold. Then, add those remainders all up from each shooter.

    Math magic!

    1. Check out Carl Gauss over here.

      1. I hope that they don’t come after me for my wizardry.

    2. They’re gonna get a better count if the collect empty shell casings than if they subtract the current number of rounds from the capacity of the gun. I mean, you don’t think they all reloaded at least once or twice while the gun battle was taking place?

      1. I’m still wondering how they landed so many on target, while not shooting each other or anyone else.

        It’s almost like they executed him or something, which is just a silly idea.

        1. Come on, JW, cops would never execute a mentally ill person. That’s just crazy talk.

  10. Because the feds have not come up with their own rules yet for camera use, they’re instructing local agencies that they can’t have body cameras on when they’re doing joint arrest or task forces with the marshals.

    Wyatt Earp didn’t have didn’t have body cameras, Sam Gerard didn’t have body cameras, Bill Hickock didn’t have body cameras, Raylen Givens didn’t have body cameras, and everything turned out well for those heroes.

    1. Maybe we’re the ones who should start wearing the body cameras. It’d be a real time saver.

      1. Check out Epicurus over here.

      2. But we’d have to take them off when the feds show up. Self-defeating.

  11. Now, with Donald Trump as our president-elect, it’s worth wondering and worrying about whether any of the federal law enforcement agencies will implement body cameras at all. Trump, who has bought into the false narrative that there’s a “war on police,” was endorsed by the national Fraternal Order of Police. The Fraternal Order of Police has praised the possibility of Sen. Jeff Sessions, a drug warrior who supports civil asset forfeiture and opposes sentencing reform, as Trump’s attorney general pick. Given that police unions have been incredibly resistant to the implementation of body cameras, it may be a challenge to get the Department of Justice to join the camera club, and we may see much less pressure or financial assistance for local police agencies to do the same.

    Note to other Reason writers: this is how you voice concern for the coming Trump presidency. You name specific facts and policy positions that concern you a d the reasons why. It’s the exact opposite of overreacting or deliberately misquoting him because your pants are full of shit.

    Well done, Scott.

    1. Well done, Sloop.

        1. That’ll do, Crusty.

  12. Just things to note :

    Cops claimed he shot at them. There was no other evidence. For all we know they made him and then shot him. We would never know.

    1. Which is in fact the entire point of the story.

  13. Trust them, Scott. If they fucked up, they’d admit it.

  14. “Because the feds have not come up with their own rules yet for camera use, they’re instructing local agencies that they can’t have body cameras on when they’re doing joint arrest or task forces with the marshals.”

    This tells you how serious they are about accountability. Even other police aren’t allowed to film their interactions, which tells you how much transparency is really needed in those cases. I’m not sure how the Fed can push for local jurisdictions to wear cam’s but ignore their own, much larger, forces in the various Alphabet Soups.

    “Their police cars normally have dash cameras, but on this particular day they were driving new cars that didn’t have the cameras outfitted yet…”

    So wait…what? The newer the police cruiser the less likely for it to have a dash cam? Egads. In this case it sounds like a mentally ill person was determined to die, but who knows at this point. There are no witnesses left that don’t have incentive to lie.

  15. But even though the Department of Justice supports such transparency, the federal government is lagging behind the municipal law enforcement agencies its funding.

    Let’s not give the DoJ credit it does not deserve.

    The DoJ’s subordinate law enforcement agencies have a *policy in place* which requires police serving with them to not use bodycams – even if the that cop’s parent agency would normally require it.

    The DoJ knows what its doing, and what its doing is bullshit through and through. There’s no redeeming qualities in their stance on bodycams, its simply that bodycams will pacify the prols and allow more control over state LEO agencies. Their stance is all power-play.

    1. Yeah, there’s a line between mere incompetence/laziness and actively avoiding accountability.

      Telling other people who have body cams to turn them off is definitely in the latter camp.

  16. “Why did US Marshals shoot at a man 76 times?”

    They ran out of ammo?

  17. First, we have to require the FBI to record/video all interrogations/depositions and stop relying upon their note-taking.
    Then, we can worry about getting the Marshall’s Service and other Fed LE into the 20th-Century.

  18. well, at the least, local LE need to tell Feds to go have a long hike on a short pier when they demand local LE turn off body cams. Fed presence does NOT trump local policy. Fact is, FedGov CANNOT participate in local law enforcement. WHY were Feds even involved? That’s the opening question…..

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