A Boulder man was acquitted of obstructing a peace officer on Wednesday after he livestreamed the police response to a mass shooting last year at a Table Mesa King Soopers that left 10 people dead — including his friend and a police officer.
Dean Schiller, 44, was shopping at the supermarket in March 2021 and had just left the premises when he heard gunshots and saw three people lying face down.
He was charged with a misdemeanor count after police said he ignored 60 commands to move farther away from the store for nearly two hours as he recorded the incident live from his Youtube account, an affidavit states. Prosecutors argued Thursday that he was a distraction from police efforts to save lives and secure the crime scene.
Schiller — an independent journalist — learned sometime after the shooting that his friend Denny Stong, who worked at the store, was one of the 10 people killed.
Deputy District Attorney Myra Gottl said his priority was to keep streaming to gain more viewers on his channel.
“It was a calculated decision to get attention and he liked it,” she said in closing arguments at the trial that opened Tuesday. Clips of the video shown during Schiller's trial showed several officers telling him to move back for his safety and for officers' safety. At one point he does get behind the police tape eventually strung around the store but refuses to cross to the other side of the street.
Schiller said despite the prosecution's claims, he recorded the incident to be helpful.
“It wasn't that I was creating something,” Schiller told the Associated Press. “It was real news and I needed to show people as long as they wanted to watch.” He said the prosecution made it hard to fully mourn the loss of his friend, who lagged behind him in leaving because he knew so many people inside the store.
A Denver-based U.S. appeals court in July became the seventh appeals court to rule that people are protected by the First Amendment to record police while they work. In September, a federal judge blocked enforcement of a new Arizona law restricting how the public and journalists can film police.
The suspect in the shooting, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 23, is accused of killing 10 people — including customers, workers and a police officer who rushed into the store to try to stop the attack.
Alissa’s prosecution has been on hold since December after a judge ruled he was mentally incompetent to stand trial.
Colleen Slevin of the Associated Press contributed reporting.
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