Spokane Police turn to bodycam, cell phone video in search of vandals and looters

SPOKANE, Wash. — What started as a peaceful protest on Sunday turned into violence. The Nike store was looted, businesses had their windows broken and protesters stood in front of some to protect them. The Spokane Police Department wants to catch those who caused the destruction.

Police have started to comb through their body camera video to see what they caught.

“There will literally hundreds and hundreds of crimes that were committed in the presence of officers and then we have witnesses, other people in the community that saw a crime that they either captured on cell phone video or we have captured on storefront video,” said Sgt. Terry Preuninger with the Spokane Police Department. “So there is a lot of evidence out there that we’re now beginning to go through to look at prosecuting people that committed crimes that didn’t get arrested that day.”

Police said they made about 20 arrests that night. Some were for malicious mischief, property damage and others for assault, and more arrests are coming. 

“We want to get out there, hold people accountable, find people that committed crimes and do our job,” said Preuninger. 

A lot of the video police have is from their body cameras, but also from the public. Some are of the looting of the Nike store. It was one of several businesses hit by vandals. Many others either tagged or had their windows broken. 

On Wednesday, boards still remain on the Nike store door. Spokane Police said they could’t arrest the looters right then and there. 

“Most of the looters had gotten out and at that time the crowd had gotten pretty volatile and we knew we were going to need to move them and had to give the dispersal orders and then that’s when we started taking action to move the crowd back,” said Preuninger. 

Police are also looking for people who caused damage to other businesses, like the Garland Resale Boutique. 

One person was seen spray painting the door and trying to break a window. Another person kicked in an already broken window. 

“As soon as you start taking other things that don’t belong to you, damaging other people’s property, injuring other human beings, assaulting other police officers- those are crimes,” said Preuninger. “That’s not the first amendment. That’s not the exercise of free speech. That’s criminal.” 

Preuninger said video from witnesses will also be key to their investigation. 

“If they have cell phone video of a crime, they’ll be able to send it in and we’ll get ahold of it and see if it’s something we can use,” said Preuninger. 

Charges can range from malicious mischief to theft, depending on what the video shows. 

“Hopefully through the next few weeks we’re going to be able to take a lot of the evidence that we collected and hold some of those people accountable beyond the people that we arrested that initial day,” Preuninger explained. 

The department is still looking for an easy way for the public to share their videos with investigators. At the moment, they want people to hold onto the videos until police figure out a method to submit them.