This week, a Seattle police officer chose to talk about the death of a pregnant woman at the hands of his fellow officers … while livestreaming a video game.
On June 18th, officers came to Charleena Lyles‘ home to investigate a burglary she reported. Lyles, a pregnant mother of four, was then killed in a scuffle with the officers. Some of the details of the case are unclear, but it’s known for sure three of her children were home at the time. It’s a deeply upsetting case that has raised troubling questions about the officers’ use of force.
Some of the members of the department play Destiny via a channel called “FuzzFeed206” (206 is the Seattle area code). Usually, they complete raids while answering questions about various crime-related issues. In this week’s stream, Sergeant Sean “Vesperbat” Whitcomb chose to address the Lyles case, though he admitted it would “be on the heavier side.”
Apparently his idea of gravitas in addressing the killing of a pregnant woman is to talk about it while not in active combat. He wanders the Tower through the entire livestream, talking about the events that led up to Lyles’ death. And it’s not as though it was unsanctioned or condemned by the higher-ups: the department tweeted a now-deleted YouTube recording of the stream.
— Seattle Police Dept. (@SeattlePD) June 22, 2017
Whitcomb was swiftly raked over the coals on social media. The video has since been deleted, and though the channel can still be viewed, Whitcomb told GeekWire he and his squadmates will no longer be using it.
“I wouldn’t have done the stream knowing that it caused a lot of hurt,” said Whitcomb. He has been the SPD’s director of public affairs for eight years, by the way.
It’s interesting to see the police department using Twitch to foster better community relations, but ultimately, it’s not the place to address such a tragic topic. Especially not while playing a first-person shooter.