Tale of the tape a tortured one
Shot from the patrol car of then-sergeant Tim Heidt, the tape showed exactly what happened in Heidt’s encounter with 48-year-old McMinnville resident Hipolito Aranda on the night of Feb. 13, 2010. All it lacked was sound, as Heidt neglected to flip the microphone on when he exited his squad car.
In May 2010, when the initial use-of-force review was conducted, the only tape available started at a point where Aranda was already on the ground, being struck in the head and ribs by Heidt. It did not show Heidt’s initial interaction with Aranda, who had been riding beside a suspected drunk driver and standing by during the arrest.
Three years later, in February 2013, a second use-of-force review was conducted. This one, investigators noted, “utilized a copy of a video recording apparently copied for the use-of-force review and reportedly consistent with evidence item #3 DVD #5652.” They said, “This tape included a portion of video from the point when Sgt. Heidt exited his vehicle.”
The report did not explain why the original review failed to include the entire tape, merely stating the new review “was based on the discovery of a video recording that had not been utilized or available” initally.
According to documents reviewed by the News-Register, after District Attorney Brad Berry ordered their release, the department spent some weeks pondering the issues raised in the followup review. Then it commissioned an independent inquiry by Capt. Jason Alexander of the Woodburn police, who issued his report April 23.
Both the internal and external investigations based on the newly surfaced video called Heidt’s credibility into question. And that ultimately led to his termination.
After the tape’s belated surfacing, a copy was turned over to an attorney representing Aranda in a federal suit seeking damages for excessive use of force, as required under the rules of discovery. He responded by requesting more information.
City Attorney Candace Haines provided an explanation in a Jan. 18 letter, the documents show.
The car used by Heidt that night, Haines wrote, “had regularly had difficulties properly recording information,” and the sergeant in charge of maintenance had been working with the manufacturer in an attempt to correct them. The car used a DVD system, making officers responsible for copying and submitting video into evidence.
Records show Heidt placed the DVD from Feb. 13 into evidence on Feb. 15, along with an error report by the maintenance sergeant, also dated Feb. 15.
Heidt told Alexander he had been unable to get the video to play.
“There was just like a one-second blip and there was nothing else on there,” he said. “But my understanding was, that the car has a hard drive and that it records under the hard drive … so if it’s not on the disk, it should be on the hard drive.”
Heidt said when he returned to work on his day off, he asked the sergeant in charge of maintenance to recover the recording that way. There was no audio, he told Alexander, because he forgot to take the microphone with him when he got out of the car.
Haines said in the letter that the city’s Information Services Department eventually succeeded in recovering video that could not be viewed earlier.