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Activist group files request for body camera footage in police-shooting case

Friends and family members hold candles during the funeral service of Iaroslav Mosiiuk at JB Tallent Funeral Service on Monday, March 20, 2017. Mosiiuk was fatally shot by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police on March 8.
Friends and family members hold candles during the funeral service of Iaroslav Mosiiuk at JB Tallent Funeral Service on Monday, March 20, 2017. Mosiiuk was fatally shot by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police on March 8. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

A judge will soon decide whether to release footage of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer shooting a Ukrainian immigrant to local activists, who requested dashboard and body camera videos in superior court Friday.

If the request succeeds, it would likely be the first time an activist group has obtained police video in court since October 2016, when a law requiring a court order for the release of footage took effect.

Robert Dawkins, who made the one-page, handwritten request on behalf of SAFE Coalition NC, said Friday that the filing will test how the court handles requests from activists.

Dawkins argued that the release of the video serves a compelling public interest. His organization called for the release of footage after the autopsy of Iaroslav Mosiiuk, 25, showed that he died from a single gunshot to the back.

CMPD has said Officer Brian Walsh shot Mosiiuk from that angle because Mosiiuk was pointing a rifle toward another officer. Olesya Tabaka, who witnessed the shooting and watched the footage along with her family in March, has said that she tried to tell officers the rifle didn’t work.

The district attorney’s office has not yet said whether anyone will be charged in Mosiiuk’s death. Because the case hasn’t been adjudicated yet, CMPD would not comment Monday.

The law restricting access to body camera footage has only been tested a few times.

The first successful request came from Charlotte’s public radio station, WFAE-FM, in January. CMPD attorney Mark Newbold supported WFAE’s Lisa Worf in her request for footage of the police shooting of Rodney Rodriguez Smith, who was killed in June 2016.

The January request was WFAE’s second attempt to access that footage. The station’s first request, in November 2016, failed because the district attorney was still deciding whether to charge the officers involved.

Also in January, a judge approved the Charlotte Observer’s request for footage of the fatal shooting of Michael Laney by CMPD officers in 2012. CMPD agreed with the judge’s decision in that case, too.

In April, a Forsyth County judge allowed Greensboro’s City Council to watch video of two police encounters, and a Brunswick County TV station successfully argued for the release of another video the same month.

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