A Charlotte business owner’s call to 911 about shooting and killing a suspected burglar may not be released if a judge agrees to let the police department keep the audio records sealed.
In North Carolina, 911 tapes and police dispatch radio traffic are subject to disclosure under the state’s public records law. Certain editing of the audio is sometimes done to protect crime victims or the identity of witnesses.
But, on Friday, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department filed court papers asking a judge to “prevent disclosure of public information” from 911 calls made on Aug. 6.
The police department says it’s worried that if it’s forced to release the calls, it could jeopardize a fair trial for the business owner, who was criminally charged on Thursday. North Carolina law allows police departments to seek exceptions to public records law by petitioning a judge.
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In this case, the 911 calls stem from a shooting and suspected break-in that happened around 4:30 a.m. Monday at the American Beauty Garden Center on Independence Boulevard.
Police were first called by an alarm company. Around the same time, the garden center owner, Alan Corder, 49, called 911 to say he was going to the business, according to CMPD.
Corder told 911 call-takers he could see a person inside via a security camera feed, police have said.
When Corder arrived, he found the front door glass of his business smashed and the suspected intruder, 20-year-old Justin Tyler Anderson, fled through the front door, police have said.
Corder called 911 back to say “he had just shot someone,” according to CMPD.
When officers arrived, they found Anderson’s body outside the store, lying behind the business. Anderson was pronounced dead on the scene.
Corder is charged with voluntary manslaughter, a felony, public records show. He was initially held at the Mecklenburg County jail on Thursday but was released later that night, according to the sheriff’s office website.
The Charlotte Observer and five other media outlets in North Carolina have submitted public records requests to CMPD, seeking copies of the 911 audio from the shooting, according to the department’s court filing.
But, CMPD Attorney Judy Emken says the 911 audio is evidence in a pending criminal case.
“In the event the calls were released to the news media at this juncture, such release could impact the right of the defendant to receive a fair trial,” she wrote in a court filing Friday.
An attorney for Anderson’s family has said Anderson was wrong to break in to the store but didn’t deserve to be killed.