The death of a 7-year-old girl who was shot during a police raid in Detroit while cameras were rolling could raise questions about whether police behavior changes when they know someone's watching.
A spokesman for the A&E program "The First 48" tells ABC News they had a camera crew along with the Detroit police when Aiyanna Jones was shot and killed during the execution of a search warrant to find a man wanted in connection with a murder. The camera crew was not inside the house when the girl was hit. The raid happened early Sunday morning.
Although there's no direct evidence to suggest the camera crew's presence changed officers' behavior, Robert Thompson, a professor at Syracuse University who follows television and popular culture, says cameras following cops is a touchy situation.
"I'm all for press freedom," said Thompson in an interview, "But I have always thought anything you do to distract people who enter a dangerous situation armed with weaponry is not a good idea."
"When I watch 'Cops' -- and I like the program -- I have always thought that's got to be, on one level, distracting."
Thompson says there's no question people change their behavior when cameras are around.
"Heisenberg's uncertainty principal tells us that even molecules under observation behave differently," he said. "When a camera is present some may be extra careful. On the other hand, there may be people who consciously or unconsciously are going to want to perform more heroically or with more machismo."
The issue of photographers influencing soliders' actions goes back as far as World War I, Thompson says, but free speech has usually prevailed over objections to documentarians traveling with soliders.
For the family of the 7-year-old girl, the A&E cameras could be very important. Attorney Geoffrey Feiger, who has filed two lawsuits on the family's behalf, says video evidence will show police are covering up what happened during the raid
Fieger said Tuesday that the suggestion the shot fired that killed Aiyanna was an accident is "absurd," because a videotape shows the shot came from a porch outside the home.
"This type of activity by a police force is unacceptable in America," said Fieger. "What's equally unacceptable is the cover-up that has occurred."
Police say an officer's gun accidentally discharged during an altercation with Aiyanna's grandmother, Mertilla Jones.
Fieger says the video shows the girl was burned by a grenade police threw into the house. Fieger told reporters at a press conference Tuesday that someone taping the police raid brought the video to his office.
The Detroit police did not respond to ABC News' inquiry about the possibility that officers changed their behavior because the cameras were following them.
Detroit's Police Chief Warren Evans, who has been trying to reform the overworked department for almost a year, issued a statement this afternoon:
"I want to say to the entire Jones family, Aiyana's loved ones and friends, how terribly sorry I am for your loss. I have children and grandchildren and cannot comprehend losing one of them, especially under such painful circumstances," he said. "I will never be able to put myself in your shoes."
Evans said the Detroit police has a "painful self-examination" to undergo.