The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in British Columbia have apologized after livestreaming a press conference on the murder of an American woman and an Australian man on Facebook Live with an augmented reality “cat filter” turned on, per the Daily Beast.
According to BuzzFeed News, Sergeant Janelle Shoihet said during the conference on Friday that police had determined the deaths of 24-year-old North Carolina woman Chynna Noelle Deese and her 23-year-old Australian boyfriend, Lucas Robertson Fowler, were “suspicious.” The couple was found shot and killed near their 1986 Chevrolet van alongside Highway 97 on July 15, with Canadian authorities calling for anyone who saw the couple, the van, or were in the area at the time to contact them for help with the investigation.
According to the Daily Beast, the British Columbia division of the RCMP apologized after leaving the cat filter on during the broadcast, with Shoihet later pointing to “technical difficulties” after re-recording it. The RCMP said on Twitter that they had accidentally left on “an automatic setting.”
The RCMP uploaded a version of the press conference, sans cat ears, to Facebook:
Deese and Fowler were just a few days into a lengthy planned road trip throughout Canada when they were shot and killed, according to the Charlotte Observer. Their bodies were found off the highway 12 miles south of Liard Hot Springs, a popular tourist attraction, and took days to identify.
In a press release on Friday, the RCMP said they currently do not have any suspects in custody and do not know whether the incident “was a crime of opportunity,” asking for those who may have been in the area from 4:00 p.m. local time on July 14 to 8:00 a.m. local time on July 15 to step forward. Police are particularly interested in any possible dashcam footage. Shoihet said during the conference that investigators currently do not have any information that indicates the killings are “linked to any other active and ongoing investigations in the area, or if there is a heightened risk to public safety.”
Fort Nelson residents Sandra and Curtis Broughton told police that they had seen the couple on the afternoon of July 14 sitting in armchairs by the disabled vehicle, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, and that Fowler appeared to have correctly determined the van had a “flooded out” engine. The couple appeared to have the situation in hand at that time, the Broughtons said.
Deese’s brother, British Deese, told the Observer that the couple met at a hostel in Croatia in 2017 and had traveled through Europe, Central America, and Asia. Fowler, whose father is a police official in New South Wales, had obtained a job at a cattle ranch in Canada.
“They were deeply in love,” British Deese told the Observer. “They met traveling and that’s just what they did—travel. He was working in Canada and they were planning an extensive road trip there for three weeks. They were going to spend a week on the ranch and the second half of the trip going to national parks in Canada.”
“Maybe the van over heated or broke down,” British Deese added. “Something happened on that road, some sort of conflict. We don’t know because they [Canadian authorities] are not telling us anything.”
“She was happy,” Deese’s mother, Sheila Deese, told CBS 17. “She was so happy and that gives me comfort.”
This is actually the second recent incident involving Facebook Live and a cat filter, though it is by far the more grievous error. In June 2019, regional Pakistani minister Shaukat Yousafzai streamed a press conference with the same filter activated. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party later blamed the incident on “human error” from a volunteer and said “all necessary actions have been taken to avoid such [an] incident in future.”