VERNON, Texas (TNN) - The Vernon Police Department is in the national spotlight after weapon camera footage was used in a court case for the first time.
With body cameras, officers can forget to turn them on in the heat of the moment, or cover them with their hands extended, but with a weapon camera it’s always on and always in front.
“It just started out as a routine call.”
Then corporal TJ Session went up to a car in front of a home to serve a warrant and the suspect quickly backed the car up with him on the side.
“When I cleared the vehicle when I focused back on him to give him commands to get out of the car that’s when I see him coming over with the shotgun,” he said.
Session fired his gun and backed up as another officer arrived, realizing he had been shot as well.
“At the same time I knew something bad had happened because in my head, honestly, it was like, wow this is how you’re gonna die,” Session said.
All this happened in almost 15 seconds.
“I didn’t realize it happened as fast as it did until it went to trial and the DA was like this happened so fast, this this this and this,” he said.
In court, the defense used body camera footage to support its case.
“I wasn’t even looking at him. I was doing like this, the shots that his defense attorney showed were only from this, so it showed my gun pointed at him because I’m holding it like this, and you could see the defendant and it looked like he wasn’t doing anything,” Session said.
From the gun camera, “you could see him reaching over and grabbing the weapon,”
The cameras protect the officers and the people they’re helping.
“It’s one of those things you never want to happen, but from my perspective, you have to put the right tools in our police officers’ hands to make sure we’re safe,” Vernon Mayor Doug Jeffrey said.
A long term investment that Vernon chief of police Randy Agan wanted to jump on early.
“I was looking for a better way for the officers to tell what’s going on and not with any obstruction,” he said.
And received support from the Vernon community with Vernon Auto Group making a major donation in purchasing them.
“The chief had come in and asked if there was any way we could assist them with a project,” general manager Don Gomillion said.
Only a few dozen departments across the country use these cameras. Viridian Weapon Technologies is working with around 500 currently and expect this example to kick start more interest.
“The fact that it was an actual shooting, seems to make a big difference, because we’ve done scenarios, and testing, we’ve done simulations, but that’s different than being used in the actual field with a random event that unfolded in a random way,” Viridian Weapon Technologies president Brian Hedeen said.