A video camera catches what looks like the most violent police shooting ever.
A man is walking away from a uniformed officer outside a convenience store and the cop takes aim and fires into the man's back. If it were shown to a jury, it would only take minutes to convict the cop.
"What do you think of that?" asks Sgt. Mike Harms, a Santa Cruz Police officer in charge of community relations, after he shows the first tape.
The 20 community members who are taking the Santa Cruz Police Department's Citizen's Academy are fishing for words or silent. It looks like an egregious crime by a cop and no one in the heart of the police station on Center Street really wants to say what they are thinking.
"Wait a minute," he says, and pulls up a second film of the same shooting from a different angle.
This time we see that the man walking away has a pistol in his hand we couldn't see in the other tape. He's pointed it at another cop off to the side and and is clearly homicidal.
If anything, the cop waited too long to shoot him, we see this time. Amazing the difference an angle can make.
This story reminds me of the "figure and ground" illusion.
We need to be a little skeptical about what "reality" actually is. Sometimes, our first impression isn't adequate. A lot depends on the angle from which we're looking.