Scan data proves valuable two years later in double-homicide case

The morning of June 24, 2015, York Regional Police responded to reports of a shooting at the Moka Café and Espresso Bar in Woodbridge, Ontario. At 8:15 a.m., an armed suspect wearing a ski mask had entered the small café and fired 11 shots in less than 60 seconds. One customer and one employee were pronounced dead at the scene. Another two customers eventually recovered from life-threatening injuries.

Over the next three days, eight investigators with the Forensic Identification Unit processed the crime scene and related evidence. The scene was documented with a Leica ScanStation Pro Series laser scanner, which is the law enforcement industry standard for capturing accurate, comprehensive scene data. After taking 18 scans of the interior and exterior, trajectory rods were placed in the six usable impact sites and the scene was rescanned for analysis and shooting reconstruction. A Leica DISTO was also used to measure a number of small rooms that were too cluttered to scan and were not part of the incident.

Back at the station, forensic investigators registered the scans into a single point cloud. Detective Sergeant Brad Joice, commander of the Forensic Identification Unit, imported the registered point cloud, along with the DISTO Evidence Recorder data, into Map360, part of the Leica Geosystems Incident Mapping Suite (IMS). Map360’s easy-to-use interface, IntelliCAD engine and multisensor support enabled Joice to create concise courtroom-ready 2D deliverables, including a diagram of the interior and exterior of the scene, a trajectory analysis/bullet path reconstruction diagram, and an evidence report. (Watch this on-demand webinar to see how Det./Sgt. Joice documented and mapped this scene.)

 

Scan data refutes expert video analyst’s testimony

Comprehensive scan data wasn’t the only record of the scene. Security cameras captured an unusually high-quality video of the entire incident. Even though the video showed the jury what took place, the 3D point cloud data proved invaluable when the defense suggested that the wrong person was charged.

Since the ski mask prevented facial identification, the defense had hired an expert video analyst who estimated the gunman’s height compared to other features of the cafe, including doorways. According to the expert’s calculations, the gunman in the video was significantly shorter than the accused.

By the time the case reached court, the café had undergone a total renovation. It was impossible to return to the scene and physically measure the doorway that the expert used for analysis. However, since the scene had been scanned two years earlier, it was a simple matter to bring up the scan data and provide a scientifically accurate measurement that could be used to refute the expert’s testimony. “Knowing the factual height measurements taken from the scan data,” Joice says, “the Crown Attorney was able to challenge the accuracy of the defense witness’s calculations.”

 

The proof is in the point cloud

The scan data and the unusually high-quality video surveillance not only helped convict the suspect, who is now serving two life sentences, but also provided a unique opportunity for Joice to validate his trajectory analysis.

Using Map360, Joice rotated the point cloud to align the scanner’s perspective with the angle of the surveillance camera. Forensic investigators then used iNPUT-ACE video analysis software to calibrate the video on top of the 3D point cloud in Map360 using the iNPUT-ACE Camera Match Overlay tool. The video imagery and the point cloud merged perfectly.

“Once we had our trajectory rods placed and scanned,” Joice says, “we were then able to validate the process by the video overlay, comparing the trajectory analysis to the actual position of the firearm at the time of discharge.”

 

Even though the video evidence seemed conclusive, this case shows that, when it comes to data, you can never have too much. “That’s one of the greatest advantages to using a 3D scanner,” Joice says. “You capture data that isn’t significant at the time but becomes important later.”

To learn more about 3D laser scanning or explore how digital scene mapping and documentation can assist your agency, please contact us.

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