On 1 December 2018, on the margins of a gilets jaunes protest in Marseille, 80-year-old Zineb Redouane was struck in the face by a tear gas grenade as she was standing at the window of her fourth-floor apartment. The following day, she died in hospital. This case became a symbol of police violence and impunity in France. Using elements of that report, and a detailed 3D model of the scene, Disclose and Forensic Architecture re-examined the case, reconstructing the precise sequence of events before, during, and after the killing.
The day of the publication of the investigative story, more than 20 national and local media took over the informations published by Disclose and Forensic Architecture. At a particular time in France, when demonstrations were taking place against a law to ban the filming of police officers, and while for two years police violence has increased and the French police are also accused of racism, this project had a huge impact. The video was watch by more than 300 000 personn on social network. In May this year, a new document was added to the ongoing investigation into her death. This was a ballistics report commissioned to establish whether proper respect for regulations had been observed when the grenade was fired. The conclusions of the report were to exonerate the still-unidentified person who fired the grenade. This investigation showed that the conclusions of the ballistic report accusing the policeman behind the shooting did not hold up. The lawyers of the civil parties therefore asked the justice to use the video and asked the judge for a new ballistic expertise. A demonstration take place on Marseille to request a real investigation from court about the policeman. One day after the publication, a complaint was launch against the former interior minister, Christophe Castaner, to the Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR), for “falsification and disappearance of evidence”.
For made this visual investigation Disclose an Forensic Architecture join their work, on one side deep investigative journalism and on an other side, architectural practice. Our investigations employ pioneering techniques in spatial and architectural analysis, open source investigation, digital modelling, and immersive technologies, as well as documentary research, situated interviews, and video from social network. We use the 3D modelisation to reconstruct the scene when the police fired in the direction of the building where Zineb Redouane was at the window of his apartment. From the CCTV images taken during the shot, we were able to establish the direction and angle of the shot. We used satellite imagery and on-the-ground measurements to develop 3D modelling. Using techniques most commonly found in architectural practice, using, among other tools, data mining, software development. We uses programs like Rhinoceros 3D, Blender, QGIS, Agisoft PhotoScan, and 3D Studio Max to recreated the scene.
What was the hardest part of this project?
The hardest part of this project was that we have not the video of CCTV, but only photo materiel of the video. We had to reproduce the moment of the firing of the policeman only with this base. One of the surveillance videos allowing to see another angle of the shot of the officer being officially down at the time of the shot. We then had to calculate the trajectory of the grenade to be able to prove that it had been fired in an illegal manner.
What can others learn from this project?
This investigation show how journalists, designer, architects and motion designer can work together on the case of policy violence, by using 3D modelisation and geospatial imagery. The work of the investigative journalists were to find witnesses of the scene, fact-check their testimonies, obtained secret documents like the ballistic report used in court proceedings to exonerate the policeman behind the shooting. Then Forensic Architecture use the information to reconstruct the scene. The meeting of architectural expertise and investigative journalism can be a powerful lever to hold the authorities to account