Regular readers of the Puppycide Database Project will know that we have followed the story of Autumn Mae Steele's death at the hands of Burlington Police Department cop Jesse Hill since days after it occurred. PuppycideDB has finally released video of this horrific event which can be viewed below after the jump.
We've spoken to members of the Steele family and their attornies. Our team followed the devastating press release by local District Attorney Amy Beavers as she bungled her responsibility to seek justice for the Steele family. The Puppycide Database Project did our best to round up popular support for a groundroots movement that resulted in the City, Police and Animal Control Board of Burlington returning the Steele family dog after months of threats and delays.
The Steele case was the first case that the Puppycide Database Project has covered that lead to project volunteers receiving anonymous threats and hate mail. We continued our coverage.
It's this involvement that has given us pause in releasing a copy of the video. Our team has reviewed many of these videos, and in fact creating a library of these videos on our Youtube channel and private servers is part of our core mission or maintaining a library of police violence toward animals. The video was released immediately in other places and remains available on the internet; places that members of the Steele family might not see it. Is it really necessary for us to release the video as well?
The fact is the video flies in the face of Jesse Hill's version of events, and confirms statements from Autumn Steele's husband and the only uninvolved eyewitnesss (a neighbor). Those statements were consistent in their claim that the family dog was not violent and that Hill lost control of his weapon as he slipped and fell. The negligence is compounded by another detail the video reveals. Both Autumn and her dog were shot (the dog was not fatally injured); not only was the dog not violent but the dog can be seen to have his back toward Hill when Hill began firing. The dog had his back turned and was walking behind Mr Steele and the four year old in his arms. When Hill opened fire he was pointing his gun almost directly at the infant.
At no time during any of this does Hill make any attempt to defuse the altercation between the Steeles; nor does he warn Mr Hill that he intends to open fire inches away from his infant son so that he could make some sort of defensive motion to help block the child from gunfire. Hill makes no attempt to restrain the (non-violent) family dog short of immediate deadly force. The entire video is 12 seconds. Most of that is Hill running from his parked car toward the scuffling couple. Once Hill reaches the family, he immediately falls on his rear after losing his footing, firing his weapon with absolutely no control as he does.
This type of behavior - immediate escalation to deadly force, no warnings given and no threat that would neccessitate the use of firearms - is a trend that Puppycide Database researchers have seen again and again in cases of police shootings of animals (and their owners).
Autumn Steele shouldn't have been scuffling with her husband; she shouldn't have gone to her home alone after being arrested for domestic violence. These are irresponsible actions. But they aren't actions that warrant a death sentence adjudicated by a single individual.
Imagine how much different things could be if police like Jesse Hill, when they came across a family in trouble, would reach out to help instead of reaching for a firearm.
Here is the video: