Former U.S. Attorney calls for release of footage from officer-involved shooting in SLC

Posted at 4:23 PM, Mar 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-04 23:44:07-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Salt Lake County is seeing backlash over its decision not to release body camera footage from the recent officer-involved shooting in downtown Salt Lake City.

The former U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah, Brett Tolman,  is speaking out and questioning the motives behind keeping the footage from public sight.

There's been a lot of rumors swirling about what happened the moments before the February 27 shooting, which ended with 17-year old Abdi Mohamed in a medical coma in the hospital.

"I'm hearing different stories, a bunch of different stories, of how he got shot," said Mohamed's cousin, Muslima Weledi.

She said the family wants to know which story they're hearing is true.

"We want to see the video and actually what happened," she said.

But the footage that might give them answers is out of reach.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said that's because the body cam footage is evidence, and, like any piece of evidence, they can't release it to the public.

"We want to make sure that we protect the Constitutional rights of people," he said. "We want to make sure that the investigations aren't compromised."

Tolman said he doesn't quite buy that story.

"There is enough that is already out there," he said of the photos, video and witness testimony regarding the shooting, "That make us question, 'Was it appropriate to use deadly force?'"

He said the situation "screamed" Taser, or perhaps pepper spray would have been more appropriate.

Not releasing the body cam footage, he said, shows a lack of transparency and leaves the impression that it does indeed show the shooting was not justified.

"I think that if it was very clear [it was justified], I think they would release it immediately," he said.

He pointed out other departments have been quick to release body cam footage in the past when it showed the police in a more positive light.

And, in this day and age, that's what departments should do, he said.

"We live also in a time in which transparency is of the utmost importance," Tolman said. "So release the video. Let us see what it is. Let the public see what it is."

But Gill said it's not about showing the public the video to prove or disprove rumors. Right now, he said, it's about protecting the integrity of the investigation and following the protocol of his office.

"We are going to follow one set of rules," he said. "And those set of rules are that I am not going to support the release of videos until investigations are done."