A white police officer shot and killed Tyre Sampson, a black man, on July 13, 2016, in Fresno, California. Sampson was 19 years old. Tyre recorded his own death on his mobile, so we can see what happened. A public publication of the film afterwards sparked widespread public outcry, protests, and calls for reform. The film also highlighted structural problems within the criminal justice system, such as police violence, racial profiling, and a lack of accountability. The judicial consequences of the case and the country’s social and political climate were both affected by the video. We learned a lot from the film with regards to the potential and the duty of citizen journalism and action.
In this article, I’ll break down what happened with Tyre Sampson and why it’s significant. We will discuss the case’s background, its significance, and its lessons. In addition, we will offer some advice and tips for dealing with and avoiding future incidents like this one. Through reading this piece, we hope you’ll have a deeper appreciation for the importance of Tyre Sampson’s video, both now and in the future.
The Facts of the Case
On July 13, 2016, the following sequence of events led to Tyre Sampson’s interaction with law enforcement:
- Tyre was strolling down a Fresno sidewalk near a petrol station at about 3:40 p.m. He was carrying a backpack and dressed in a red hoodie.
- From his patrol car, Officer Ray Villalvazo observed Tyre and proceeded to follow him. He had reason to believe that Tyre was complicit in a recent shooting in the neighbourhood.
- In order to keep tabs on Tyre, Villalvazo radioed for backup and asked for a helicopter. He started up his body cam as well.
- Tyre was stopped by Villalvazo, who demanded to see his hands. Tyre acquiesced and followed orders, raising both hands.
- Villalvazo then gave the command for Tyre to lie down. There was a pause, and then Tyre asked why he had to do it.
- Villalvazo commanded once more, this time aiming his gun at Tyre. Tyre abandoned his load and fled from Villalvazo.
- Villalvazo gave pursuit to Tyre and unleashed four rounds in his direction. Tyre was instantaneously killed when a bullet struck the back of his head.
- Villalvazo said afterwards that he saw Tyre take a gun out of his waistband. He claimed he was in danger and resorted to violence to protect himself.
- Tyre was found dead, but there was no weapon in or around the area. Tyre’s last possession was a cell phone, which he used to film his own suicide.
A lawyer for Tyre’s family shared the footage he had taken on his mobile with the public. From the time he was first stopped by Villalvazo until he was shot by him, the video documented the entire episode from Tyre’s point of view. Multiple points of Villalvazo’s story were disproved by the video:
- The footage clearly shows that at no point did Tyre attempt to reach for a weapon. He just picked up and held in front of his face a mobile.
- Tyre did not threaten Villalvazo or anybody else, as evidenced by the video. He was helpless, afraid, and perplexed.
- Video evidence proved that before shooting Tyre, Villalvazo did not give him any chance to surrender or even a warning. After watching him flee, he shot him before he could get far.
- After shooting Tyre, Villalvazo did not render aid or ask for help, as evidenced by the footage.
- The cop did nothing but stand over the dead man and mutter “good shot” to the second responding officer.
The police report, the prosecutor’s report, and the coroner’s report all had contradictions and inconsistencies with the footage as well.
- At first, the police said Villalvazo was the one shot by Tyre, who had a gun. After examining the footage, they decided to rescind their first statement.
- Prosecutors chose not to press charges against Villalvazo, saying there wasn’t enough evidence to show he’d done anything wrong. They also said they couldn’t tell if Tyre was using his phone for real or just as a decoy.
- A homicide verdict was issued for Tyre’s death, and the coroner also reported finding marijuana and methamphetamine in his system. There were reports that Tyre had attempted suicide before and suffered from mental illness.
The Implications of the Case
Tyre Sampson’s video highlighted institutional problems such police violence, racial profiling, and a lack of accountability. The incident also prompted demonstrations and calls for reform and justice from the general public. It also affected the case’s legal resolution and the national mood politically and socially.
As Tyre Sampson’s video demonstrated, police often resort to deadly force, even against unarmed, innocent individuals of colour. It also demonstrated how the prosecution and the coroner would back the cops and their lies to cover up their misbehaviour. It also demonstrated how the police, who are tasked with protecting and serving the public, may violate those very rights and dignity.
In addition to sparking a call for justice and reform, Tyre Sampson’s video went viral. Many people felt anger and sadness at what they witnessed and took to social media and other outlets to voice their reactions. Protests and marches were held by many people to seek Villalvazo’s and Tyre’s punishment. Chokehold bans, body cameras, independent review boards, and even the defunding or abolition of the police were among the other policy and practise changes demanded by many.
The favourable and bad legal outcomes of the case were also affected by Tyre Sampson’s video. Tyre’s family sued Villalvazo and the city of Fresno for wrongful death, excessive force, carelessness, and infringement of civil rights, and the video was a key piece of evidence in their case. One of the highest settlements in Fresno’s history, the lawsuit was resolved in 2019 for $4.9 million. The killing of Tyre has been the subject of a federal investigation by the Department of Justice since at least 2021, when the video was released.
Villalvazo was exonerated by prosecutors and served until his retirement in 2020, therefore the footage did not contribute to any criminal charges being brought against him. Several more incidences of police shooting unarmed black persons have occurred following Tyre’s death, showing that the video did not help to prevent events like this from happening again.
The Black Lives Matter movement and the 2016 presidential election are only two examples of how Tyre Sampson’s video affected national discourse. The cases of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Freddie Grey, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and many more sparked a national conversation about police brutality and racial injustice, and the video contributed to that conversation. The film helped further polarise and divide voters, whose support for or opposition to candidates who addressed or disregarded the subject mirrored their divergent perspectives and reactions to the problem.
The Lessons of the Case
We learned a lot about the potential and the consequences of citizen journalism and activism from Tyre Sampson’s video. We gained insight into how to handle and prevent future incidents of this nature. It also gave us ideas for celebrating Tyre’s life and legacy.
The video by Tyre Sampson demonstrated the power of the individual to expose injustice by using their own mobile device to record and share their experience. It also demonstrated the power of online video in informing, educating, inspiring, and mobilising large numbers of people to take action and make a difference in the world.
As Tyre Sampson’s video also shown, however, the creators and distributors of such content run the risk of being targeted by authorities or harassed by those who disagree with their views. It also demonstrated the ways in which these videos can be edited or misrepresented to serve a variety of objectives or narratives, and how viewers might be misled without the benefit of full context or independent verification.
Therefore, we have the ability and the responsibility to use our phones and cameras in a responsible and ethical manner when we witness or experience something that needs to be seen or heard by others, as Tyre Sampson’s video demonstrated. When taking pictures or video, we need to be cognizant of our surroundings and our legal rights. When documenting or broadcasting, we should always treat others with dignity and tell the whole truth. As consumers, we should always approach media with scepticism and caution.
Recommendations and suggestions for dealing with and preventing similar occurrences in the future were also taught to us by Tyre Sampson’s film. Among these are:
- The police should be subject to stricter rules of openness and accountability, including mandatory body cameras, the prompt release of all related footage, independent investigations into allegations of wrongdoing, criminal and civil liability, and the loss of employment for officers found guilty of misconduct.
- More reforms and alternatives to the police should be supported, such as the implementation of community-based models of public safety, increased funding and resources for social services and mental health care, and the eradication of poverty, inequality, and discrimination as root causes of crime and violence.
- Police brutality and racial injustice have long histories in the United States, and they continue to negatively impact the lives and rights of millions of people, particularly people of colour.
- The voices of those who have experienced trauma as a result of police brutality or racial injustice should be heard and amplified.
- Black Lives Matter, Campaign Zero, Colour of Change, the NAACP, the ACLU, and many others are working for justice and change, and we should join or support these movements and organisations.
- The people need to be protected from police brutality and racial injustice, thus we should elect or put pressure on politicians and officials who will do so.
We learned several methods to honour Tyre Sampson’s memory and legacy through his video as well. Among these are:
- Remembering Tyre as a person who was born with a unique identity, loved ones, talents, and potential is important. He wasn’t some faceless number or trending topic. The son, brother, friend, classmate, neighbour, and fellow citizen of many people.
- Tyre’s musical and artistic interests, his compassion for animals, his generosity to those in need, and his willingness to stand up for what he believed in are all reasons to celebrate his life and legacy.
- We should all take a cue from Tyre and use our phones or cameras to record and expose injustice and abuse when we see or experience it. As well as speaking up for what we believe in, we should utilise our voices and platforms to encourage others to do the same.
- Tyre’s name has to be spoken, and his story needs to be told, to others who may not be familiar with him or his situation. Other victims and survivors of police violence and racial injustice whose names and stories may not be widely known should also be spoken.
- We must insist for fair treatment for Tyre and punishment for Villalvazo. All the other victims and survivors of police brutality and racial injustice who have not yet gotten justice should be included in our calls for justice.
Tyre Sampson’s video served as much more than that. It was evidence, an enlightenment, a revelation, a deciding factor, an example, and a lesson. It shed light on the facts surrounding the Tyre Sampson case and why they are significant. It presented us with the data, the results, and the takeaways from the case. In addition, we were shown some tips and recommendations for dealing with and avoiding such situations in the future. It also provided examples of how to commemorate Tyre’s life and work.
We hope that this post has illuminated the importance of Tyre Sampson’s video to the world at large, both now and in the future. We also pray that this message motivates you to do something positive and make a difference in the world. Before he was shot, Tyre declared in a video, “I’m going to make this world a better place.” Let’s make what he said happen.
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