The video is, quite simply, bone-chilling. Taken from a rooftop, the footage shows Micah Johnson shooting a Dallas police officer at point-blank range.
The video was exclusive to AP, obtained by virtue of enterprising and aggressive work from Dallas photographer Mat Otero, who earns the Beat of the Week.
Otero had already worked a full day and then coached his 7-year-old son’s baseball game, and the two were winding down at home when a friend texted with the shocking news: Gunfire had erupted at the protest march in downtown Dallas.
Otero jumped up to head to work. His son asked why. “My response was that some bad people had done something and I needed to go take pictures for work,” Otero says. “Kids are resilient and accepting.”
Otero loaded his gear into his car, along with cold drinks from the ballgame. “I knew it would be a long, hot night,” he says. He traveled the 12 highway miles quickly, his hazard and head lights flashing. He found a spot near the shooting scene, and after taking some images of the police presence and the chaotic and dangerous atmosphere, he found a spot to work on them just in front of a local TV station.
The security guard there told Otero and another person to move, immediately. But Otero was very interested in what the other person was saying.
“I have always told people that you have 30 seconds or less in this business to make someone trust you”
“He was trying to tell the security guard that he had a video of the whole shooting,” Otero says. “The guard did not want to hear any of it. I quickly ran over to him, introducing myself and asked him if he would like to share it with AP. I have always told people that you have 30 seconds or less in this business to make someone trust you in breaking news.”
He took the man, Randy Biart, to his car parked nearby, and they began the process of getting video off his phone. Otero had to download an app to make the Samsung phone footage work on his Mac. The two men then used a public radio station’s nearby office to complete the task.
Biart also gave AP an interview, set up by Otero. “Our source was also able to give the Central Desk an account of what he had seen from his hotel room overlooking the shooting site,” Otero says.
Soon after that, the local station whose security had turned away Biart sent in a query to the broadcast client desk asking about the video. It was, of course, too late.
“I heard the explosion that ended the life of the lone shooter.”
Otero kept on working. A little after 1 a.m., he says, “I heard the explosion that ended the life of the lone shooter.” Police used a robot to deliver the explosive as the man threatened officers after failed negotiations.
Though sensing that the threat was over, he stayed at the scene through the night, knowing that if he left, there would be no way to get back in that close. “Never give up a good parking spot!” he says.
For sustenance, he had two apples and those cold drinks from the baseball game. And he notes, "I was able to get about 30 minutes of sleep just before first light."
Otero would shoot and file photos through the next afternoon – part of the exceptional work of colleagues in Texas, Chicago and across the country that night and for days to come.
For tirelessness and his hustle to obtain a crucial exclusive for AP, Otero wins this week’s Beat of the Week award.