Judge blocks dissemination of video of fatal shooting by Raleigh police
Posted February 4, 2020 11:36 a.m. EST
Updated February 4, 2020 7:49 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — A judge on Tuesday denied a request by Raleigh police to widely release footage from an officer's body-worn camera of a fatal shooting last week.
The shooting occurred less than three minutes after police were notified by someone outside a Big Lots store that a man in a gold suit jacket had dropped a gun on the sidewalk outside the store and was acting suspiciously as he stuffed it back in his waistband.
Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown has said that an officer responding to the initial dispatch identified the man described by the 911 caller and tried to approach him, but the man showed a weapon and ran. So, the officer fired.
The Raleigh Police Department wanted the body-cam video released publicly to demonstrate that the officer, who hasn't been named, did nothing wrong.
But Collins' family told Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman that the video would be too traumatic for them and asked that it not be released.
"I've met with the family, and it was their request that the video not be released publicly. They were concerned with it showing up on social media," Freeman told Superior Court Judge Rebecca Holt. "They've suffered a tremendous loss in the last week, and if you can imagine that, you have to be concerned that every time you pick up the phone or turn on the TV that you might see your loved one being killed."
Gerald Givens, president of the Raleigh-Apex branch of the NAACP, said he watched the video with Collins' stepfather on Monday and that he didn't see a gun amid the chaotic action in the video. But he said Collins' family said he carried a BB gun, not a handgun.
Freeman said she couldn't confirm whether the gun found at the scene of the shooting was a BB gun.
Rick Armstrong, a former Raleigh police officer and the head of the local police union, said it doesn't matter whether the gun was a BB gun or a handgun.
"To me, it looks like it could very well be a real gun, and you have to treat it as a real gun," Armstrong said. "If an officer believes that it’s a threat and it looks as if it’s a real gun, you have take all the precautions and do what you you’re trained to do, which is to stop a deadly threat."
Holt ruled that the Raleigh Police Department can show the body-cam video to the public and the media but not disseminate it in any way, meaning it cannot be recorded and the video and the audio cannot be used on television, social media or online news reports.
Police said anybody who wants to watch the video can see it between 11 a.m. and noon Wednesday at department headquarters, at 6716 Six Forks Road. No recording devices will be allowed in the building.
"I think that the video is graphic," Givens said. "It's very tough for the family. Once you see it, you can't unsee it. I think the compromise today is for the family for the best."
Local civil rights’ groups usually demand police body-cam videos be released, but that wasn't the case this time.
"We don't get to see the full story," said Diana Powell, executive director of Justice Served NC. "But the family, they probably don’t want to relive it, so we have to respect that."
Givens said he is withholding judgment on whether the officer handled the situation appropriately. Collins was dealing with mental health issues, he said, which likely played a role in the incident.
"I definitely feel like I need more information, definitely, because the video is only one perspective of it," he said. "I think it’s important to get all the pieces together, and once you get all the pieces together, go ahead and put the narrative together of what really happened in this situation."
"It's tragic," he added. "You all will eventually have the opportunity and the time to find out who [Collins] was, what he went through, why he was carrying a BB gun."
The officer has been placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of a State Bureau of Investigation review of the shooting. Raleigh police also are conducting an internal investigation to determine whether any policies or procedures were violated.