Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters earned widespread praise for releasing body camera video that led to murder charges against a campus police officer.
But the Ohio prosecutor is now fighting the release of dashboard camera video that shows the fatal police shooting earlier this summer of a suicidal suspect who killed a Cincinnati police officer.
Deters subpoenaed video that shows the events after Officer Sonny Kim was shot to death June 19 by Trepierre Hummons, who ambushed the 48-year-old officer and was then shot to death by Officer Tom Sandmann.
Hummons’ mother, who lived nearby and witnessed the officer’s shooting, used Kim’s radio to call for help.
The prosecutor’s office investigates all police-involved shootings, and Deters plans to present the case to a grand jury when police complete their own investigation.
Several local media outlets have asked to see the video recorded by Sandmann’s dashboard camera, but Deters has said he would do whatever it takes to prevent the video from being released.
“This has got nothing to do with the public records law,” Deters told WLW-AM’s Bill Cunningham. “Don’t get me wrong — I just think it would be morally corrupt to (broadcast) something like that.”
Kim’s wife asked Cincinnati’s mayor, John Cranley, not to release the video, saying its release would traumatize their children.
But an attorney for the media outlets argues that reporters should be given a chance to review the video as the public’s representative and determine whether it contains newsworthy material.
Police offered a brief account of the shooting shortly after Kim was killed, but it remains unclear who fired first or how many shots were fired during the incident.
It’s also not clear what role a probation officer played during the encounter.
Deters argues the video is an investigatory record and is therefore not a public record, and if Sandmann is not charged in the shooting, the video and other investigation records, such as witness statements, would never be released.
The prosecutor said he hopes to be transparent about the investigation once it’s complete, but he said he would not release the video without an order from the Ohio Supreme Court.
Deters made similar statements about video that showed the fatal July 19 shooting of 43-year-old Sam DuBose by Ray Tensing, a University of Cincinnati police officer.
The prosecutor released that video immediately after a grand jury indicted Tensing on a murder charge after body camera video disputed his claim of self-defense, and Deters strongly condemned the fired officer and his actions.
Deters and media outlets have asked in both cases for a court ruling to clarify state law on the release of those videos under Ohio’s public records statutes.
“The technology today has blown through the current law,” Deters said. “We need direction. I think this video is part of the investigative file.”
Watch this video report posted online by WLWT-TV: