SEATTLE – After an online outcry, a Seattle Police Department video in which an officer playing a video game discussed the recent fatal police shooting of a pregnant mother has been removed from social media.
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The video was part of a recent effort by the department to engage a new audience on Twitch.tv, a platform on which people can livestream themselves playing video games and talking.
Previous versions have included members of the department's public information office blasting aliens in the game Destiny while discussing law-enforcement related topics.
But a video posted Wednesday in which Sgt. Sean Whitcomb discussed Sunday's fatal shooting of Charleena Lyles struck many as inappropriate, although Whitcomb's video-game character just walked around rather than firing any shots.
Whitcomb began the stream by saying it was "going to be a little on the heavier side because of recent incidents here in Seattle."
"I wouldn't have done the stream knowing that it caused a lot of hurt," Whitcomb told the website GeekWire on Friday. "But at the same time the question has to be asked, 'What are the merits of this channel if you're not going to talk about the things people most want to hear about?' It just seemed really phony to not talk about the most significant and certainly one of the most tragic events in our city in years, on a stream that exists in a public space."
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The video was initially linked on the department's official Twitter feed, but it had been set to private Friday. The department said it would no longer use Twitch.
Lyles' killing has prompted outrage among many, including her family, who questioned why the officers couldn't use nonlethal methods to subdue the diminutive 30-year-old and suggested that race played a role. Lyles was black; the officers are white.
The officers were responding to a burglary report called in by Lyles and knew she had a history of mental health issues, and that she had menaced two officers with metal shears in her apartment earlier in the month.
An audio recording released by police reveals that they calmly took her information until about two minutes into the encounter, when they said she suddenly confronted them with two knives.
The shooting remains under investigation.