Source:José-Ignacio Castañeda Perez, Alexandra Edelmann, Joel Farias Godinez, Derek Hall, Nicole Ludden, Maia Ordoñez, Devan Sauer, Mackenzie Shuman, Troy Tauscher
Affiliation:Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University
Date:February 24, 2020; March 1, 2020
Federal law enforcement shootings have escaped the kind of scrutiny that gave rise to the local policing reforms of the Black Lives Matter movement. One such agency is ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, whose agents have been involved in shootings nationwide, although the incidents received little attention. The Howard Center for Investigative Journalism spent five months piecing together details of HSI agent-involved shootings using police reports and other official documents from state agencies, obtained under public information requests, as well as court records, lawsuits and interviews. A federal FOIA to ICE for agent shooting data is still pending. The multimedia project produced by the team of eight undergraduate reporters – titled “Homeland Secrets” – includes a long-form narrative that drills deep into one shootout in a residential Phoenix neighborhood, as well an examination of federal shootings nationwide and the troubled history of ICE’s HSI division. Students built a Google map with details of each shooting around the country they were able to independently verify and uploaded documents they obtained through public records requests, some of which had never been made public. A major finding of the investigation was that agents’ official version of the Phoenix shooting -- that they were shot at first and returned fire in self-defense -- was contradicted by the police evidence reporters obtained through public records requests. Reporters enlisted the help of two nationally recognized audio forensics experts to analyze a recording of the shooting which students had obtained from police. Both experts agreed that the first gun to fire belonged to one of the HSI agents. A centerpiece of the project was an 11-minute video documentary about the HSI shooting in Phoenix.