America was again sent reeling Friday when a gunman opened fire at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, leaving five dead.
It was on Sunday, though — even before the names of the deceased has been publicly released — that celebrity gossip website TMZ posted surveillance footage of the gunman firing his first shots in the airport.
As WPLG reports, that footage has resulted in an investigation of its own, one that points to a leak within law enforcement itself.
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) January 8, 2017
Prior to TMZ’s post, only “high ranking law enforcement” officers had be granted access to the video.
As Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief explained, the act wasn’t simply disrespectful, but illegal:
“To know that somebody with that type of security clearance could think that it’s OK to leak evidence into a media organization really didn’t settle well with us, and it is a crime.”
As the FBI and local law enforcement reviewed the leaked video, they came to believe that it was recorded off the airport’s surveillance monitor using a cellphone.
Because of the way it was filmed, investigators noticed that the reflection of the individual who recorded the TMZ video was captured as well:
Using image enhancement technology, FBI investigators were reportedly able to determine details about that individual — such as his uniform’s logo and physical characteristics — that led them to take action.
On Tuesday, it was announced that 46-year-old Broward Deputy Michael Dingman was suspended with pay as a result of the ongoing investigation.
Dingman, a 21-year veteran of the department, had reportedly been assigned to work in the airport.
— Marissa Bagg (@MarissaNBC6) January 10, 2017
Sensitivity to the victims and their families aside, the video is considered “a crucial piece of evidence” in the shooting’s investigation.
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel did not indicate whether the video’s release to the public had compromised the investigation, or how it would affect its role as evidence against alleged shooter Esteban Santiago.
“I’m not saying he did or didn’t do anything wrong.
Based on all the information available to me, the correct move, the direction I chose to go in, is to suspend a deputy with pay as the investigation continues.”
Nonetheless, Israel expressed his disgust at the thought that one of his own could be responsible for the leak:
“I’m disgusted and appalled to think that, in general, anyone in law enforcement may have been involved in such a despicable event: making a video, especially such a graphic video that is part of evidence, taking a video that is not any deputy’s property, to distribute to anybody.”
Mayor Sharief added that the guilty party, whomever it was, “had no gauge whatsoever in terms of sensitivity and in trust.”
While the investigation is still ongoing, Israel noted that law enforcement is “making progress and aggressively pursuing the case.”
It remains unclear if Dingman, or anyone else, received compensation for leaking the video.