SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah — The Salt Lake County District Attorney stated Thursday that despite numerous requests for the footage captured by officers’ body cameras during a shooting in the Rio Grande District, that video will not be released at this time.
The shooting occurred February 27, 2016 after police say they observed an assault in progress and ultimately shot a 17-year-old male who did not drop a metal object he was wielding when ordered to do so. His family identified the teen as Abdi Mohamed.
The shooting occurred near a homeless shelter and sparked outrage among crowds in the vicinity, prompting nearly 100 police officers to respond after some in the crowd threw rocks and bottles at officers.
In a statement issued March 3, Sim Gill states that an officer-involved shooting is legally no different from any other investigation of potential criminal conduct, and that as such the constitutional rights of all involved must be respected. He said they must balance those rights against the competing interest of the public’s scrutiny over the actions of police.
“With that in mind, my office is declining media requests to release the officers’ body camera footage at this time,” Gill stated. “We have asked other involved agencies to respect that determination.”
Gill said it’s not a decision they reached lightly and he stated the footage may “contain evidence of a crime or other misconduct, and as a result may be relevant not just to the officer-involved shooting investigation but also, potentially, to other charges or claims relating to it.”
The DA adds that he believes prior investigations by his office have been “needlessly complicated and sometimes compromised” by evidence being released prematurely, in some cases against his advice and over his objections. He states this case is, “too important to run that risk.”
The full statement from the DA is reproduced below:
“Legally, an officer-involved shooting investigation is no different from any other investigation into potentially criminal conduct: the procedural, evidentiary, and constitutional rights of all participants must be respected at all times. As a practical matter, however, this type of investigation is complicated by the involvement of several different agencies, intense media scrutiny, and the public’s right to timely information about the officers who are sworn to protect and serve their communities. Striking the delicate balance between these often competing interests is essential to ensure that neither the integrity nor the conclusion of an investigation is compromised.
“With that in mind, my office is declining media requests to release the officers’ body camera footage at this time. We have asked other involved agencies to respect that determination.
“Please understand that we did not arrive at this decision lightly. But these video recordings may contain evidence of a crime or other misconduct, and as a result may be relevant not just to the officer-involved shooting investigation but also, potentially, to other charges or claims relating to it. Video recordings, just like all other evidence, must be handled in accordance with the rules of law, consistent with the constitutional safeguards guaranteed to every participant in our criminal justice system.
“I believe past investigations of my office have been needlessly complicated, and sometimes compromised, when evidence was released prematurely, often against my advice and over my objection. This investigation—like all officer-involved shooting investigations—is too important to run that risk.
“We are committed to protecting the due process rights of everyone involved, while also engaging in an open and transparent process. To that end, we will work to complete the investigation as fairly and expeditiously as possible. Although, despite the diligence of all involved agencies, that may take weeks or even months to conclude, we are committed to releasing information relevant to this matter as soon as we can do so without compromising the investigation.”