West Palm Beach camera unhelpful during August double-murder

A city surveillance camera was transmitting a shaky, blurry and unintelligible image to West Palm Beach police when two teens were shot and killed three blocks away late last month, video reviewed by The Palm Beach Post reveals.

The camera, at the corner of Tamarind Avenue and Lincoln Road, wasn’t useful during the five minutes before and after the moment Johnny Davis, 19, and Jernale Turner, 17, were shot and killed during a brazen, middle-of-the-day drive-by shooting Aug. 26.

Its black-and-white footage, seen in the video above, is so blurry and shaky that it’s unclear where the camera was pointing. No people, vehicles or any other moving objects are seen in the 10 minutes of footage The Palm Beach Post obtained through a records request.

 

Police haven’t made an arrest in the shooting, which left two other people wounded.

Even if it was working, it’s unclear whether the camera would have helped detectives. The camera is about three blocks from where Davis and Turner were killed, on 19th Street and Tamarind. If the shooter didn’t drive by the camera before or after the shooting, it’s unlikely it would have been useful.

But it was the first visible example of problems with the city’s roughly 30 surveillance cameras scattered throughout the city – a system that Mayor Jeri Muoio has vowed to fix and expand.

In May, the camera in the Dunbar Village complex was found to be faulty, too, when it failed to save any footage. Police haven’t made an arrest in that case, either.

That camera is about a block away from where Davis and Turner were killed, and it was working when the shooting occurred. But it was pointing east, away from the scene, and doesn’t appear to have recorded anything useful.

News that the camera wasn’t working during the May shooting sparked a war of words between West Palm Beach police and city spokesman Elliot Cohen over who was responsible for the cameras.

The city is responsible for maintaining the cameras, while police are responsible for where the cameras are placed and pointed.

The city has acknowledged that the cameras haven’t been maintained over the years, and some are blurry or haven’t worked.

“We will continue to be up front about the camera troubles and how the mayor has made it a priority to fix,” Cohen said Thursday, “and I’m sure moving forward it will be easy to find numerous examples across the board where they weren’t pointed in the right direction, were too dirty to be useful, or simply didn’t work.”

To get an idea of the quality of the surveillance system, The Post requested random footage from six cameras located in the Northwest Neighborhood and Coleman Park, where 28 people have been shot, 10 fatally, since May.

All but the camera at Tamarind and Lincoln appeared to be working and recording color images, but two didn’t appear to be useful.

One camera, atop the Salvation Army building at 600 Rosemary Ave., was pointing into a tree. And the Dunbar Village camera was dark and blurry.

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