Forensic Audio Expert Provides Gunshot Analysis for Journalistic Investigation of the Shooting Death of Al Jazeera Journalist

The Washington Post called in Steven Beck, forensic audio expert, to analyze audio from the shooting of a journalist last year in the West Bank to gain independent insight into the aspects of the incident.

Steven Beck, founder and principle of Beck Audio Forensics, is a recorded audio expert, specializing in the area of recorded sound of gunshots, gun fire and explosions and examined the audio to estimate the distance of the two groups of shooters involved in the incident.

For 25 years, Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist, served as a reporter for the Arabic-language network Al Jazeera. Throughout her career, she gained prominence across the Middle East for her extensive coverage of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

While reporting on an Israeli military raid on a refugee camp in Jenin, located in the northern occupied West Bank Abu Akleh, was killed by Israeli forces on May 11, 2022. The Washington Post, doing its own investigation called in Steven Beck for the audio to be analyzed by an expert to verify which group was responsible for the shooting.

“By analyzing the time delay between the recorded ballistic shockwaves and the associated muzzle blasts, I was able to estimate the distance between the two groups of shooters. The shooter distance from the gunshot that killed Ms. Abu Akleh corresponded to where a group of Israeli Defense Force soldiers were in the area,” said Beck.

Gunshot sounds captured on recordings typically last for about 1 millisecond and often get distorted by the surrounding environment and the recording equipment. In order to offer a professional analysis of such sounds, it is necessary to possess both a practical understanding of how these factors interact and several years of experience in the field.

When investigating an event, recorded sound can frequently provide valuable information on the sequence of events and the identities involved. For such evidence to be admissible in court, thorough analysis of the recorded sounds is essential, demanding specialized tools, methods, and expertise of a recorded audio expert.

Earlier in 2023, Beck was asked by the Washington Post to also analyze the audio recordings of multiple cell phones that streamed live recordings of the Evin prison riot. From that audio, Beck was able to identify 112 separate gunshots and 2 explosions.

According to Beck, “Forensic gunshot analysis is a specialty under the general topic of forensic audio. In order to identify all types, expert knowledge of sound production, propagation, and recording effects is required in all cases that I work on.”

Beck has served as an expert acoustics consultant for the FBI for 16 years and has 10 years of experience as an audio expert witness, testifying in numerous court cases. Additionally, he has authored many fundamental peer-reviewed papers in the areas of recorded gunshot and voice analysis.

Beck Audio Forensics offers forensic audio service with an expertise in gunshot analysis and expert witness testimony since 2013. Mr. Beck has successfully completed over 30 cases, with a majority of cases involving recorded gunshots.