Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Dallas Police Shooting: Misinterpreting Visual Evidence? 

Some commentators have argued (e.g. here and here) that Dallas Police officers brandished weapons that fired blanks

Close visual analysis may suggest otherwise

MHB Commenter ‘Toni’

There’s been conjecture about the above image to which I must take exception. The image, showing police grouped against a wall during the Dallas shooting event, is said to reveal an officer holding an orange training pistol, as well as many red blank-fire adapters attached to several of the weapons.
But close observation tells me that these colorful details are, in fact, visual aberrations that regularly manifest in the kind of low resolution screen grabs that come from a cell phone video, as this appears to be.
Let’s start with the orange pistol. If you magnify that part of the image you will see that the officer’s left hand is resting palm-down on the back of the officer in front of him, making any grip on the alleged gun, which appears to be pointing to the sky, decidedly tenuous.

Underscoring the insecurity of his hold on the so-called pistol is the fact that the officer is not left-handed. If you look at the left hip of the officer in question, you will see his taser holster with the butt of the taser pointing forward, ready for a cross-body grab with the right hand. This means the officer is right-handed and thus unlikely to be holding even a training pistol in his left hand, supposing such a pistol existed in this image, which it does not.

Further magnification of the orange artifact that reads “gun” to the casual glance, shows that the orange color smears to the right, while the hand of the officer has no such smearing. This indicates that the orange is an artifact.

Orange, and especially red, bleeds are very common video artifacts. They can be seen in this image, flaring off some of the other weapons. These artifacts have been identified by the training gun advocates as blank-fire adapters.
But the red adapters are not correctly positioned out at the end of the gun barrel where they should be, as demonstrated in the theorists’ own support evidence. The alleged blank-fire adapters in the Dallas event image are all over the place. On the rifle on the left, the adapters appear to segment the rifle barrel an impossible two times. While in this close-up, one adapter shines from within the hands of an officer, and another adapter rides askew on the mid-barrel of the gun.

And how lucky can one image be to capture the exact moment that the blank-fire adapters on the first officer’s rifle line up perfectly with breaks in the text on the Bank of America sign? Is that serendipitous, or what?

Mocking aside, my interest here is not that someone may have come to a mistaken conclusion. My concern is for credibility; less for that of the theorists, and more for the credibility of those who are uncritically spreading a false story, especially one that’s been artificially told.
I am troubled when there is a question that evidence may have been manipulated to further a certain set of conclusions. In this case, it appears the vivid visual aberrations used to elaborate the orange gun/red adapter stories have been bolstered by turning up the over-all color saturation in the image.
Consider the two pictures below, which have been cropped for comparison. On top is the image circulated by the blank-fire theorists; at bottom is the original image taken from the Wall Street Journal. The manipulation in the top picture is unmistakable. The jacked-up color saturation benefiting the theorists’ version can be seen shining on the faces of everyone in the shot.

Original image from the Wall Street Journal:

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