Police Officer and Suspect Shot Caught on Gun Mounted Camera
Caught on Gun Camera: Police Shootout With Man Wanted for Child Sex Crimes
On April 27, 2019, Corporal TJ Session of the Vernon Police Department, Vernon, Texas, went to a house on the 15000 block of Mansard Street, intending to arrest Walter Emilio Orellana.
Orellana , a Honduras native, was 23 years old at the time and was wanted on three felony warrants alleging continuous sexual abuse of a child, indecency with a child and aggravated sexual assault of a child.
Corporal Session arrived at the house – where Orellana’s girlfriend lived – to find his subject reclining in the driver’s seat of a vehicle in the driveway. When Session confronted Orellana, Orellana gave Session a false name, then attempted to put the car in gear. Subsequent events unfolded rapidly. Orellana grabbed a sawed-off shotgun and opened fire. Corporal Session, now a seven-year-veteran officer, spotted the weapon as Orellana went for it. He created distance between himself and Orellana, drew his sidearm, and began shooting.
Switching gears for a moment — I wasn’t planning on covering this incident. In fact, I only know about it because I was contacted by a marketing company for the gun camera manufacturer. I get emails like that all the time and they rarely warrant more than a glance. We do our own investigations, aggressively pursuing access to records and delivering on our commitment to not publish footage that has already been published elsewhere (unless we have significant new footage and information to add). Ethical journalism requires independence. It calls for avoiding conflicts of interest and resisting the constant attempts of outsiders to influence stories. Marketers don’t get to dictate what we cover.
Body-worn cameras are frequently worn at chest-height. That placement reliably obscures the officer’s field of view any time the officer draws their sidearm. Just when you most want to know what’s going on you get a great view of the officer’s arms. The gun camera concept is a solution to that problem, and Viridian seems to have done a good job at executing it. Indeed, in this incident Corporal Session’s body camera is blocked by his outstretched arms throughout much of the gun battle. His gun camera captures almost all of it. Furthermore, the gun camera clearly shows Orellana pointing a sawed-off shotgun at Session. In the body camera video, it’s hardly visible.
Viridian’s “FACT” camera automatically activates any time the gun is removed from its holster. It has a built-in flashlight and is supposedly capable of recording up to six hours of 1080p video with sound. Gun cameras play a different role than body-worn cameras and the technologies complement one another, but I have to point out that a weapon-mounted camera deployment is orders of magnitude less expensive than a body-worn camera deployment. (More on that soon.) With the caveat that purchasing decisions should not be made on the basis of footage from a single incident, this is promising tech. And that’s why you are seeing it.
When the smoke cleared, Orellana has been shot eight times and Session had taken 41 shotgun pellets to his left arm and shoulder — where 36 pellets remain to this day.
In mid-February 2020 a jury found Orellana guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on a public official, a level one felony in Texas. Orellana was sentenced to 40 years in prison, with a minimum of 20 years served before he is eligible for parole. Moreover – per Corporal Session – Orellana has yet to face his charges of continuous sexual abuse of a child, indecency with a child and aggravated sexual assault of a child. That 20-year minimum could get much longer. Session and Orellana have both recovered from their injuries.
*As noted on screen, Corporal Session explicitly consented to show the entirety of this video – including the ambulance footage.
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