COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Officers fitted with body-worn cameras could make the difference between someone going to prison or getting off the hook completely.
The district attorney's office in El Paso County says the video recorded by local law enforcement is changing the way they work with the victims, for the better.
Some cases could have turned out very different had there been body camera footage after the crime.
It was almost exactly one year ago that UCCS student Ahmed Almesbahi was arrested for allegedly trying to end his girlfriend's pregnancy in a horrifying way.
Arrest papers outlined the gruesome details: he allegedly got a knife and started cutting into her stomach, telling her he was going to "take it out," then used items such a shish kabob skewer and a corkscrew to induce an abortion.
The woman lost the baby the next day. Police said Almesdbahi told them he wasn't ready for a family.
Charged with several felonies, including the unlawdul termination of pregnancy, the then 23-year-old was facing life in prison if convicted. But an El Paso County judge ultimately dismissed all the charges because the victim returned to her home country, Kazakhstan, which meant she couldn't testify.
How would a body camera have helped in a case like this?
"We try to train officers to develop a case where we don't have to call the victim, in case they don't show in court, are reluctant to come forward, disappear on us," said District Attorney Dan May.
Body-worn camera footage as evidence is a benefit in documenting officers' interactions with suspects and victims following a crime. Especially with domestic violence victims, who may later recant.
The DA's Office tells 11 News reporter Jessica Leicht that in El Paso County, 50 percent of domestic violence victims take back their story the very next day.
"Part of it may be having to be in front of a jury one day trying to explain the most intimate or serious thing that ever happened to them in their life. So it is difficult sometimes to get prosecutions in these cases," May said.
As for victims who may not be cooperative, prosecutors say body-cam footage helps them capture victim statements and reactions right after a crime. But interviews recorded on body-worn cameras can't be used, unless the victim is in the courtroom.
"That's still hearsay and it's inadmissible, so there are pieces of evidence we can use when the victim doesn't show up, but there's [sic] parts we can't use unless they are there. That's what's frustrating if you have a victim who skips the country because a lot of times we don't have to resources to find people around the world. We then review the case and see if we can convict the case without the victim," May told Leicht.
The DA would not comment directly on the dismissal of Almesbahi's case because the judge sealed it.
But we know officers who responded to the crime hadn't been outfitted with body cameras yet. May hopes it will help prosecute other cases in the future.
The Colorado Springs Police Department has all of their officers outfitted with body cameras now. The El Paso County Sheriff's Office got theirs in July and are gradually getting their deputies trained on them.