The trial of three men accused of robbing Blackbeard’s liquor store last December continued on Friday with the evidence of a certified forensic video analyst.
Grant Fredericks was accepted as an expert witness. He explained how he compared photographs of clothing and a vehicle taken by a scene of crime officer with images from closed circuit television at the store in Grand Harbour, plus images from what he referred to as “the national CCTV,” plus a camera at Kirk Home Centre.
Andrew Lopez, Bron Webb and Randy Connor have pleaded not guilty to robbing Blackbeard’s shortly after 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 17, 2014, and having an unlicensed firearm at the time. The Crown’s case is that Lopez drove his mother’s black Ford Escape to the store with Webb, Connor and another man as passengers; the three men allegedly entered the store, robbed the cashiers and a customer, and left in the Ford Escape. The men and vehicle were found at Lopez’s residence in Prospect shortly after.
Mr. Fredericks shared his findings, projecting photos and CCTV images on a screen for Justice Francis Belle and the 12-member jury to see.
He first dealt with the vehicle. He compared photos of the known vehicle, which was in police custody, with images of the “questioned” vehicle – the one seen on private and government CCTV cameras. He started with the class of vehicle – make, model, color, right- or left-hand drive.
If these matched, the vehicles might be the same one, he explained, but he then had to look for any unique features.
The unique features he found included a dent above the passenger side front wheel well.
A vehicle consistent with the Ford Escape is seen entering Grand Harbour. Then a camera inside Blackbeard’s captures the image of a vehicle outside. Three individuals get out, the vehicle stays there till they come back and then it drives away. It has a visible dent above the wheel well and a hood-mounted side mirror, as the known vehicle had.
Mr. Fredericks concluded, “In my opinion this is the same vehicle police have in their custody – the known vehicle.” He then compared photos of clothing with images from the store’s CCTV. The clothing was either in a storage room at Lopez’s residence or being worn by a defendant when he was arrested.
Clothing a match
One item was a black jacket. Mr. Fredericks described it as a puffy jacket with four distinct stitch lines across the back. It also had a tear – its shape and location were unique. Questions had arisen because the jacket worn by one of the robbers appeared to be green-blue on a store camera. Mr. Fredericks explained how light and reflections can affect color. The way a camera stores information can also affect color because it uses a compression system, he said.
Sometimes an owner will set up a camera with an infrared illuminator so that images can be recorded in the dark, he explained. The illuminator reflects light outside the spectrum humans see with their eyes. Also, synthetic clothing reflects differently.
This store had two cameras. Mr. Fredericks told the court he asked police to take several items to the store at night so that lighting would be replicated, and then photograph them in the position in which they were seen on the video. His opinion was that the questioned jacket was the known jacket.
He compared a photo of dark pants recovered with dark pants seen in the CCTV. He pointed out various tears. Based on the unique damage and manufacturer’s features, Mr. Fredericks formed the opinion that the known and questioned pants were the same.
Questioned by lead counsel Bernard Tetlow on behalf of Lopez, Mr. Fredericks agreed he never saw a fourth person inside the vehicle when the robbery was taking place. However, he added, he did see that the front passenger door had been left open and he saw it being closed from the inside. When the door closes, nobody is standing outside the car, he observed.