WTF is Going on in this Baltimore Body Cam Video: A Screencap Guide

It led to a suspect being falsely arrested back in January.

Justin Fenton / Baltimore Sun

A Baltimore police officer was caught allegedly planting drugs in the trash of a suspect he arrested in a January bust. The Baltimore public defender’s office released the body camera footage earlier this week.

The video has already led to the suspect’s release. But the 30 seconds of silent footage can be a bit confusing to parse, so let’s understand exactly what’s going on in the footage that has freed one man and has another facing potentially serious legal trouble.

The officer attempted to ensure his camera would not record his actions but neglected to take into account a peculiar trait: An Axon body cam continually buffers 30 seconds of footage, which is then saved when the user hits the record button. This means a half-minute of footage is always recorded prior to the moment the actual record button is pressed. It seems the officer was unaware of this feature, which recorded him planting a bag full of pills in a suspect’s trash heap.

It’s only after the officer drops the drug stash and returns to the street that he activates his camera.

You can see the officer dropping the soup can in the upper right corner. 

Justin Fenton / Baltimore Sun

The footage begins with the officer dropping a soup can — which contains the bag of pills — into a backyard lot strewn with garbage.

The other two officers witnessed the drugs being planted.

Justin Fenton / Baltimore Sun

He and his fellow officers walk out to the street.

Turning on the camera. It's been recording for 30 seconds already.

Justin Fenton / Baltimore Sun

At some point, the officer’s hand moves in front of his camera, and that’s presumably when he turns it on. At this point the camera has already recorded 30 seconds of footage.

He picks up the soup can and pulls out the drugs. It's like he just knew they were there!

Justin Fenton / Baltimore Sun

He walks back to the trash heap alone, and after fiddling around with a couple of things, inexplicably picks up the soup can and pulls out a bag of pills. There’s no indication to think this was part of a thorough search of the back — it would be a seriously serendipitous find were it a real discovery.


Justin Fenton / Baltimore Sun

At this point, the officer yells out, “Yo!” to alert his fellow officers — who just watched him plant the drugs! — that he’s found the drugs.

The charges against the suspect were dropped, and the Baltimore Police Department confirmed during a press conference Wednesday the officer in question was suspended pending an investigation into his actions. The other two officers have been placed on “non-public contact” duty.

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