1. It's an incredibly valuable public service to release the grand jury files in police shootings. Instead of relying on rumors and police accounts of this shooting, we now have hundreds of pages of eyewitness testimony, along with video of the shooting and audio of the 911 call to build our understanding of what went down between Otis and the police on May 12. If you're at all curious or skeptical about what happened, sort through the materials here and praise transparent government.
- Keaton Otis
2. Keaton Otis had serious mental health issues. Otis’s mom testified that before he died, Otis appeared to be increasingly paranoid and delusional. He thought people were planting something under his house to listen to his conversations, he thought people were spying on him. His mom and stepfather started paying out of pocket for antidespressants and antipsychotics for their son in 2008, but the side-effects were tough to bear: an always artistic kid found his mind foggy. By fall of 2009, he would spend the entire day in his room with the lights off, barely speaking, barely eating. Two days before he was shot, his mother met with a nurse about having him committed to the state hospital.
3. Otis did not appear drunk or high Though toxicology reports showing whether Otis was under the influence of drugs when he died will not be available for a few more weeks, medical examiner Karen Gunson did not see any signs of intoxication in his body. There were no medicines in Otis' stomach, no needle puncture wounds and no drug paraphernalia on his person.
4. Two bullets at the scene were not from police guns. Otis had 23 different gunshot wounds, one punctured his aorta and was surely fatal, another would have been fatal without medical attention, and the rest were mostly in his left arm. He had one graze wound on his neck but was not otherwise shot in the head. The Skanner raised concern about a lack of bullet casings from Otis’s gun at the scene, but investigators found one non-police bullet on the street with Officer Chris Burley's DNA on it (thought no blood), and one had gone through the glass door of a RadioShack a block and a half away. Detective Kammerer said they were likely from Otis's weapon.
5. A RadioShack customer nicked one of the bullets. In a bizarre tale of customer service, a bullet probably fired from Otis' gun hit the glass door of a Radio Shack down the block. An employee, Luke Reilly, picked up the bullet, and a customer, who Reilly said had been yelling at him for an hour, asked to see it. Reilly gave the bullet to the customer, who stopped shouting. The customer said he was going to keep it, and left. (The police have since recovered the bullet for testing)
6. One witness seriously contradicts the police account. Nearly all of the numerous witnesses the grand jury heard from support the police’s basic account of events. Except for a grandmother named Earline Barnes. Ms. Barnes says she saw the whole incident from her car about a block away and says a police officer stopped Otis for about 15 minutes and slapped him around while Barnes watched. She says Otis looked out his window and said directly to her, “Ma’am, don’t leave, they going to kill me.” When two siblings, Andre and Tasha Pierce, pulled up behind Barnes after the shooting, they found her hysterical and hyperventilating. Her testimony sticks out, since her description of events does not square with the police timeline or multiple other witness accounts.
—This post was co-written by Angela Webber.