One common denominator between the tragic shootings and killings in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Falcon Heights, Minnesota, this week is the role of cameras and social media in determining what really happened. Unlike the Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights cases, videos coming out of Dallas that depict the actions of alleged assailants do not provide a picture clear enough to identify the shooters. But cameras and social media did play two other roles as events unfolded in Dallas: identifying and then clearing a person initially sought by police as a possible suspect, and providing some of the earliest on-the-ground reports of the full extent of the shootings.
Let’s start with the case of Mark Hughes, an African-American man who was photographed carrying an unloaded assault rifle during the downtown Dallas march against police violence. At 11:52 p.m. on Thursday night, the Dallas police department’s Twitter feed identified Hughes as a suspect. A short time later, a Facebook Live video emerged of Hughes surrendering himself and his gun to the police, which appears to have played a role in his release.