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Cop Kills Purple Heart Recipient, Didn’t Turn on Body Camera

Two Utah police officers responded to a call that an army sergeant had cut himself stepping on glass. They left with the man in a bodybag, a tragic death that could impact police departments across Utah.

A Tooele County Deputy shot and killed an army veteran after responding to a 911 call for medical help Sunday, local news channel KSL reported. Authorities are investigating the shooting that left the Iraq veteran and purple heart recipient, Nicholas McGehee, dead after the deputy fired three shots at him.

The officer is on administrative leave.

Jared Garcia, a lieutenant in the Utah department of Public Safety, is investigating the case. He told The Daily Caller News Foundation that McGehee ignored multiple commands to put down a gun. McGehee then pointed the gun at an officer before he was shot.

The officer in question had a body camera, but it was off. Garcia told TheDCNF that he has not interviewed the officer yet, but his understanding is that the officer thought he turned on his camera.

Garcia said because the call was originally for medical assistance, the camera was off when the officer arrived. Officers don’t turn on their cameras for medical calls to protect people’s privacy.

Simple policies like this, though, can have a big impact in the largely uncharted territory of body cameras. Body cameras have become a hot topic with recent Ferguson and other high profile police killings that drew national outrage. Counties across the country are trying out body cameras as a solution to this problem, but cases like McGehee’s raise new questions.

Who should write body camera policies? Should they be uniform? What are the penalties for failing to comply?

Garcia said only a few agencies are using body cameras in Utah. Those that use them are in test stages and still forming their polices. Garcia said McGehee’s death will add to the conversation as Utah departments form their policies.

“Most agencies that are using them are in the testing phase and are trying to form those policies,” Garcia told TheDCNF. “When these things happen departments are going to take notice, and look at their policies make sure they are appropriate for every situation.”

The cost of cameras varies widely, as do the capabilities. Then comes questions about how much video to retain and for how long. Authorities will begin to answer important questions like these in 2015, and cases like McGehee’s will not be far from their minds.

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