That’s because we know how the story ends, and where: at the bottom of the Missouri River.
We know that the Jackson County medical examiner says drug intoxication from ethanol, cocaine and amphetamines contributed to the University of Missouri-Kansas City student’s accidental death from hypothermia and drowning.
And we know that not long after that officer stopped her, at 4:30 a.m. on Jan. 15, and told her she was driving the wrong way down the street, she apparently got confused again and drove down a boat ramp into the river. That’s where her body was finally recovered almost two months later, on March 10.
With all that in mind, it’s obvious that the officer should have made her get out of the car, should have given her a sobriety test, should have saved her life by taking her off the road. To watch the dashcam footage of the stop, which was released this week, is to want to yell, “NO! Don’t let her go!”
But watching it also reminds us of the weight of the life-and-death calls that cops make every day.
We can see the officer and hear his conversation with Anderson, who had just gotten off work as a server at the strip club Chrome. But we can’t see her on the tape and so can’t really say how clearly intoxicated she was, even if driving the wrong way down a two-way street at that hour would seem to be a flaming red flag.
This is yet another case in which it would be so helpful to have footage from a police body camera, which protects both the public and the cops. If we could see what that officer saw, maybe we, too, would have thought she laughed at one point — laughter that’s not really obvious on the tape, except for his “Huh? Not funny” reaction — out of nervousness, just as she told him. Maybe we, too, would have believed her when she said she wasn’t feeling well but hadn’t taken anything and was not intoxicated.
Maybe we would even agree with the North Kansas City Police Department’s conclusion that the officer’s actions were “reasonable.”
Without such footage, it’s hard to see why he didn’t give her a sobriety test just to be on the safe side. Hard to understand why, if she was ill, she wasn’t heading home but was trying to find a bar called the Shady Lady.
It’s too late for that officer to take back his final, lame instructions to the Wichita native: “Toni, do me a favor. Pull into that parking lot, sit there awhile, gather yourself. … Go over there, park and sit.”
But if we could see what he saw, maybe we would understand.