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Zero to TASER in 48 seconds

BY PATRICK BEDARD

The camera looks forward through the windshield of a police car in Austin, Texas, recording a traffic bust. We see the back of Cpl. Thomas O’Connor as he strides forward on the driver side of the sedan he just stopped on South Mopac Expressway. O’Connor speaks hurriedly. He sounds angry as he identifies himself by name and department and finishes the sentence with a demand for a driver’s license and proof of insurance. Five seconds have elapsed since he left the patrol car.

In the next nine seconds he tells the driver, Eugene Snelling, 32, that he was stopped for 70 in a 65 zone and for having no license plate on the rear of his car. In the next five seconds, O’Connor demands “driver’s license and proof of insurance” two more times.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” the driver replies. His mother is in the car—he’s driving her to Thanksgiving dinner—and she’s talking, too.

The policeman demands “driver’s license and proof of insurance or get out of the vehicle.” Twenty-four seconds have now elapsed.

The driver’s mother nags her son from the passenger seat. At 29 seconds, the policeman yanks open the driver’s door and orders, “Step out of the vehicle.” As the driver fumbles with his seatbelt, the policeman draws a TASER from his belt holster. We’re 33 seconds into the bust now, and the mother is still telling her son what to do. At 41 seconds, the driver’s feet touch the pavement, and he stands up. The policeman shoves the door shut, hitting the driver in the shoulder and knocking him off balance. That’s followed by a hard push with an order to “get to the back of the vehicle.”

“I have no idea why—” Snelling begins, but the officer shouts him down: “Get to the back of the vehicle, put your hands on the vehicle.” The driver obviously doesn’t understand why he’s being treated so roughly when he’s said nothing provocative. He hesitates, looks at the policeman in disbelief, and the policeman fires his weapon at him. Zero to TASER: 48 seconds from the time the officer stepped out of his patrol car.

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