UPDATE 6/23/2017, 9:40 a.m: As of Friday morning, a video showing Seattle police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb playing a video game while discussing the shooting of Charleena Lyles had been taken down from both YouTube and Twitch.tv. A tweet linking to the since-removed video remained online:
Whitcomb did not immediately respond to request for comment. The original post follows:
The Seattle Police Department runs a regular online program called Fuzzfeed206 (check out the hashtag) where the department's spokespeople update the public on police actions and news developments via Twitch.tv.
For the unfamiliar, Twitch is a huge online platform that allows users to livestream themselves playing video games while offering commentary through a microphone and web-cam setup.
Seattle police flacks began using the site in November 2016, in a launch episode featuring the first-person shooter game Destiny. In that video, Sgt. Sean Whitcomb (aka Vesper Bat), can be heard talking about the challenges of enforcing the laws against texting-and-driving while shooting at orbs. Since then, Whitcomb and Co have released episodes that juxtapose Destiny gameplay with chatter about body cameras, the department bike unit, and crowd control training. The videos are generally entertaining and informative, and the folks in the public information office deserve credit for finding a way to play video games at work.
"This episode is going to be a little on the heavier side," Sgt. Whitcomb says at the beginning of the video.
No shit. It's also tone deaf.
We see Whitcomb control an avatar through a fantasy world, jumping around a space shuttle and running by electrical orbs, while discussing a tragedy that left four children without a mother. Whitcomb recounts the day of Lyles' death in detail, from the radio call in which officers can be heard talking about her mental health, to the fatal shots that went off with her children in the room. At the same time, we see a man running around in a cape, with a gun slung on his back. To be fair to Whitcomb, he doesn't engage in any combat in this particular episode of the game, mostly just running around the virtual world.
During a phone call two days ago, Whitcomb told me that the death of Lyles is one of the worst moments in the department's history. "Dude, we are suffering," he said. "This mom with little kids, that is going to tear apart your soul."
This doesn't help convey that impression. When I asked him about today's episode, he said skipping a week of Fuzzfeed would've been a cop-out.
"It would’ve been inexcusable not to move forward with a broadcast considering we’re dealing with one of the most difficult incidents in recent years. The content provides a very straightforward update in regards to where the investigation is at.”
Check it out for yourself below...