That videotape was so dark that most figures were silhouettes. But it did illustrate the matter of seconds during which the figure of Forbes, 26, sprints around the back of Salkowski's patrol car toward the officer as Salkowski retreats, walking backward, before shooting.
Forbes' parents, Ella Forbes, a professor of African American studies at Temple University, and Lorenzo Forbes, a microbiologist, declined to comment as they left the courtroom. Salkowski also declined comment.
"Nobody in our police department was happy that this incident occurred," said Lower Merion Police Superintendent Joseph J. Daly. "But this was never in our hands. This was in Erin Forbes' hands, and I think that came out in this trial.
"This has been a tragedy for everybody," Daly added. "Our heart goes out to the Forbeses, who have lost a child. And we have an officer who in a millisecond had to make a life-altering, life-changing decision."
What the trial did not resolve was the mystery behind Forbes' uncharacteristic behavior that night. Forbes had no criminal record and a reputation for nonviolence. At the time of his death, he had recently been honorably discharged from the Army; he had resumed his college studies and was working nights as an unarmed security guard assigned to a Main Line auto dealership.
Medical experts speculated that Forbes might have had an adverse reaction to cocaine, trace amounts of which were found in his blood and urine, or was suffering from the effects of sleep deprivation.
Shortly before 5 a.m., according to trial testimony, Lower Merion police got a report of a robbery at a Lancaster Avenue convenience store committed by an African American male driving a white car.
A short time later, police spotted a car and driver matching the descriptions, driving at 50 to 70 m.p.h., and pursued it northbound on City Avenue.
The car was forced to a stop at Golf Road and surrounded by six Lower Merion police cars; seven officers, guns drawn and pointed at the driver, ordered him to show his hands.
Instead, witnesses testified, Forbes rolled down the window, waved the middle finger of his left hand, and yelled an obscenity. Forbes then got out of the car carrying a three-foot carved African walking stick and tried to flee, they said.
When Forbes encountered Salkowski, witnesses testified, Forbes brandished the cane over his head and advanced until Salkowski shot.
Lawyers for Forbes' family argued that Salkowski did not need to shoot, that the video did not show Forbes brandishing the walking stick, and that Salkowski shot when Forbes was seven or more feet away, not three to four feet, as Salkowski contended.
Salkowski's attorney argued that the lawsuit was "Monday morning quarterbacking" and that the officer had the "blink of an eye" to decide whether to shoot a man he believed was a robbery suspect who was about to attack him.
Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2658 or email@example.com.