A Wake County judge agreed on Friday to release video from body and dashboard cameras from law enforcement officers who responded to an incident on April 3 where a Raleigh man suffered dog bites and injuries during an encounter with police, sheriff's deputies and North Carolina Highway Patrol troopers.
Judge A. Graham Shirley ordered the release of video and audio recordings from the Wake County Sheriff's Department, the Raleigh police department and state troopers in response to a petition from The News & Observer and Capitol Broadcasting on behalf of WRAL News.
Shirley said given the amount of publicity that already has been given to the case any concerns about jeopardizing the officers' ability to receive a fair trial could be handled at the jury selection process.
The order for the recordings to be released on Wednesday comes 10 days after a Wake County grand jury handed up indictments against Wake County Deputy Cameron Broadwell and N.C. Highway Patrol Troopers Michael Blake and Tabithia Davis.
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They are accused of beating and injuring Kyron Dwain Hinton, 29, with flashlights and a police dog. Hinton has said his encounter with police left him with a broken eye socket and nose, 21 bite marks and multiple cuts to his head.
Raleigh police, the Wake County sheriff's department, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman and attorneys representing all but one of the law enforcement officers did not protest the release.
Blake's attorney, Barry K. Henline, said he objected to the release because at some point in the judicial process he might ask to move the trial for the state trooper out of Wake County and worried whether agreeing to make the video and radio traffic available to the public could threaten that.
"Seeing what public officers do and being able to look at that is inherent in an open society," Mike Tadych, the Raleigh-based attorney representing the media companies, told the judge. "The press comes, standing in the shoes of the general public, to understand what happened here."
Rick Gammon, the Raleigh attorney representing Broadwell, the deputy charged with felonious assault and willfully failing to discharge duties, submitted his response to the court on Thursday, saying the deputy did not object to release of the video as long as 911 calls from the night and radio traffic between law enforcement officers was also released.
Some of those calls and radio traffic already has been released by Raleigh police.
Paul Gessner, a former judge who now provides counsel to the sheriff's department, echoed the call for radio traffic and 911 dispatch recordings to also be released to give the public more knowledge about the officer's actions.
"If you want somebody to piece together a puzzle," Gessner said in a courtroom full of attorneys and law enforcement officers, "you've got to give them all the pieces."
'The video will speak for itself'
In his response to the petition from the media, Gammon offered a glimpse of a defense strategy for Broadwell.
The deputy's lawyers contend that Hinton was “under the influence of numerous illegal and impairing substances, including cocaine and marijuana,” as well as alcohol.
They say that EMS officers who responded to the scene injected Hinton, who was already in handcuffs and leg restraints, twice with Versed, a sedative, “to subdue him so that he could be safely transported.”
Gammon also noted that medical personnel had administered Haldol, an anti-psychotic, after Hinton had been taken to the hospital.
Gammon also highlighted Hinton’s arrest record, noting that he had been convicted in 2003 of robbery with a dangerous weapon, misdemeanor driving while impaired, possession of drugs and misdemeanor assault on a female.
On April 1, two days before the incident, Gammon said, Hinton was involved in an assault in Garner in which “he suffered a nasal fracture and a wound to his right eye area and received medical treatment for those injuries.”
Hinton disputed that.
Hinton was taken to a hospital after that incident with minor injuries, according to the Garner police report, but the officer who wrote the report did not check boxes to signify any broken bones.
Two narratives, one incident
The incident occurred at about 10:30 p.m. April 3, when Hinton, 29, was confronted by officers as he stood in the middle of North Raleigh Boulevard near the intersection of Yonkers Road.
Hinton has said he left a sweepstakes parlor shortly before the incident and was headed to downtown Raleigh when police stopped him.
A member of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol was the first officer on the scene.
Five calls were made to 911 emergency dispatchers reporting that a man was in the middle of the intersection creating a disturbance, Gammon said in the court document.
“The callers reported that Mr. Hinton was screaming, yelling, and acting in a threatening manner.
Two callers reported that Hinton possessed a firearm, though no such weapon was found on him.
That information was relayed by dispatchers to all officers responding to the scene, Gammon stated.
The state trooper who was first on the scene, according to Gammon, also had sent out a “Code 10-18” over police radios, a phrase used when a law enforcement officer “believes that urgent and immediate assistance is needed to protect the safety of the public and the officer.”
Broadwell arrived on the scene with Loki, a police dog, and those details from the police radio traffic shaping his response.
Hinton, who has said he had just lost all his money at Good Luck Sweepstakes, a place near the intersection, acknowledges being upset that night.
"I was angry," he said in a recent recollection of the incident. "I didn't say I wasn't, and I was moving my arms and hands from side to side, but not with a threatening action."
Hinton said he did not make any threatening gestures or threats, but acknowledged "talking junk. I was saying, 'Why you stopped me? This is some b******t.' I didn't threaten nobody. I didn't have a gun."
Hinton said he was punched in the face and then was on the ground on his stomach when a police dog bit him on his side, arms and head.
"I didn't hit nobody," he said. I "didn't grab nobody. I really couldn't."
He told reporters after the officers were charged that while the photos of his injuries spoke volumes, the video was "worse than a horror movie."
Hinton arrived at Friday's hearing after the judge had agreed to release the video. Speaking with reporters outside the courthouse, Hinton echoed words he has said numerous times since the incident.
"The video will speak for itself," Hinton said.
Calls for peace
"We have had the opportunity to see the video," said Diana Powell, executive director of Justice Served. "I just want to prepare the community for what is going to be released in those videos. It can remind you of the Rodney King beating, but we cannot react in the way they did in that. We want justice to be served. We want peace. We still have a voice. ... I'm not saying all law enforcements are bad. All officers are not bad. There are some good officers out there, but one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. We want to make sure to send a message to all law enforcement agencies — 'You cannot misuse your power of authority on our community."
Freeman issued a statement after the hearing urging the community to let the questions about police use of force go through the judicial process.
“I understand that these cases are difficult and expose what can appear to be deep rifts within our community," Freeman said. "...The question under the law is whether the use of force by the officers who have been charged was excessive in light of all the known circumstances. As District Attorney, I am asking our community to allow the justice system to operate. While we understand and respect that there may be individuals who want their voices heard throughout this process, we pray that such actions be done peaceably.”