Using virtual reality to recreate shootings in the courtroom

Highly informative PBS article about 3D laser scanning and reconstruction. Here are a few excerpts:

Since 2009, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security have spent nearly $1 million on FARO scanners. Department of Defense: $18 million. Both considerable sums given that the company offers some of the least expensive laser scanners on the market for forensic analysis and surveying.

This gadget is an emerging piece of technology in U.S. law enforcement that has featured in some of America’s biggest shooting incidents last year. Tamir Rice, San Bernardino, the slaying of New York City officer Randolph Holder — all of these crime scenes were documented using 3D laser scanners from the tech company FARO. These scanners preserve crimes scenes — collecting almost every visible detail. In recent years, more and more law enforcement agencies have adopted the scanners as part of their forensic routine.


“3D reconstructions are certainly more powerful. It’s much less likely that a jury will dispute a version of events with a 3D reconstruction versus a version of events backed by 2D photographs.”

“Using 3D scanning technology, lawyers can guide a jury through a realistic crime scene. The virtual walkthroughs might include animations of people, or as with the Tamir Rice investigation, recreate an officer’s perspective as he drives through a park.

“We’re able to show the officer’s point of view or sometimes the victim’s point of view, which just wasn’t able to happen before,” BCI special agent supervisor Dennis Sweet said. “We were able to take pictures before, but the scans allows us to take a look at angles and aspects that we never had access to before.”

The BCI agents and forensic experts that we interviewed couldn’t specifically comment on the Tamir Rice grand jury, but they said that such visualizations can be a powerful tool for making arguments in court. A juror might spot something that wasn’t mentioned in arguments.

“Instead of taking a jury back out [to a scene] several months, several years later, you can take them into a scene as it was the day that it was scanned. You have a more realistic, cleansed view of the scene,” Sweet said.

Read more at PBS HERE