4 days after fatal 212 shooting, officer interviews incomplete - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

NO STANDARD: 4 days after fatal shooting, officers involved not interviewed

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For four days, two families have been waiting for answers about what happened on Highway 212 in Eden Prairie that caused police to pull their triggers and kill a man and woman following a high-speed chase.

Although the identities of the two who were shot and killed were released days ago, some of the officers involved in the shooting haven't even been questioned yet -- but Fox 9 News found that's not unusual. In fact, there is no accepted standard in either Minnesota or the U.S. for the timing of such interviews.

Officer-involved shootings are given a latitude that law enforcement rarely extends to suspects or other witnesses. The motto is: Talk to them while their memories are fresh. Except, it seems, when the memory belongs to a police officer.

In Portland, Ore., officers give a statement after a few hours passed -- but 96 hours have passed since 36-year-old Matthew Serbus and 34-year-old Dawn Pfister were shot after exiting their crashed car, and it is still unknown whether or not they were armed. No reason for the deadly gunfire has come to light, and that's because investigators still haven't talked to all the cops from the different agencies involved.

"It's a voluntary statement," Fred Bruno, one of the on-call attorneys for Minnesota police officers in trouble, told Fox 9 News. "We get to decide when and where -- and even how -- it's given."

Bruno represented one of the officers who shot Terrence Franklin in a basement in south Minneapolis. That officer was shot in the leg and waited two weeks to give an interview.

According to Bruno, there used to be an unofficial 48-hour rule. Now, it's up to the attorney and the union -- and Bruno said he believes an officer's memory is actually less reliable after a shooting because they get tunnel vision.

"When somebody's got a gun, it's like a cylinder of vision that goes down to about 12 to 18 inches," he said. "And we always talk about [how] you need time for the cylinder to expand."

There is some research to support that theory. One study cited in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin found 60 percent of officers felt like the shooting happened in slow motion, and 40 percent reported disassociation -- as though they were watching themselves in a movie. Nearly half, 46 percent, reported memory loss.

"Seems like there's a sweet spot for memory at 48 hours, but you hear 72 hours," Bruno said.

Yet, critics of the apparent double-standard say they don't believe time helps with memory -- but with protection.

"Have you ever heard law enforcement say that about a regular witness?" Attorney Bob Bennett asked. "I have not."

Bennett has won millions for the clients he has represented in police brutality cases, and he told Fox 9 News the double-standard invites suspicions that police are colluding or crafting a new narrative.

To illustrate his point, Bennett pointed to the case of David Smith, a mentally ill man who died when police sat on him and used Tasers on him while he was handcuffed. One of the officers waited six days before giving his interview.

"It shouldn't be a free pass for law enforcement," he contends. "They should be able to muster the truth."

It is important to note that statements given by officers are voluntary, and they can refuse to provide one under the Fifth Amendment in the same way that civilians can; however, Bruno confirmed that attorneys are "probably" behind the long waits.

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