By Ryan Spencer – Summit Daily (Via AP Storyshare)
Citing an ongoing investigation into the officers who shot and killed 18-year-old Charlie Foster in Summit Cove last month, law enforcement agencies have denied records requests for body-camera footage related to the shooting.
Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons wrote in a denial to Summit Daily’s records requests for all video footage related to the July 9 shooting that he is worried that its release could interfere with ongoing investigations and the privacy of those involved.
“While I appreciate the need for transparency, it is important to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation regarding the law enforcement officers’ use of force,” FitzSimons wrote in the July 12 denial.
Dillon Police Department Chief Cale Osborn, in a July 13 letter, also denied Summit Daily’s records request for all video footage related to the shooting until the Colorado Bureau of Investigation completes its investigation into the shooting.
Since July, Colorado state law has required all local law enforcement agencies to equip all officers who interact with members of the public with body-worn cameras. The law also requires officers to wear and activate the camera when responding to a call for service or during any interaction with the public initiated by the officer for the purpose of enforcing the law or investigating possible violations of the law.
State law related to the release of body camera footage allows any video that would substantially interfere with or jeopardize an active investigation to be withheld from the public.
However, an exception in the law holds if there is a complaint of peace officer misconduct, all unedited video and audio recordings of the incident must be made public within 21 days of law enforcement agencies receiving the complaint.
Osborn wrote in his letter denying the request for body-camera footage that the Dillon Police Department has not received a complaint of peace officer misconduct. FitzSimons did not address in his letter whether a complaint of peace officer misconduct had been made.
The 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office last month identified the officers who fired their weapons while responding to the residential neighborhood in unincorporated Summit County as Sheriff’s deputy Vincent Moquin and Dillon Police officer Allen Jambor.
Moquin has been employed with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office for two years and has been a certified Peace Officer in Colorado for 1.5 years, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Jambor has been with the Dillon Police Department for three years and has been a certified Peace Officer in Colorado since 2013.
The Sheriff’s Office has claimed that Foster, who was said to be experiencing a mental health crisis, pointed a handgun at law enforcement officers, leading the officers to shoot.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation is conducting an investigation into the officer-involved shooting, and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has been requested to conduct an internal investigation that will review policy and procedure, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
In the letter denying body-camera records, FitzSimons wrote that the incident “does involve a mental health crisis, which of course raises substantial privacy concerns,” and that the officers involved could be “greatly impacted” by the records’ disclosure.
Colorado law related to the release of body-camera footage contains specific provisions requiring any video that raises substantial privacy concerns, including video depicting a mental health crisis, to be redacted or blurred.
FitzSimons, however, wrote in the denial letter that “given the nature of the events and the close-knit nature of this community,” he determined that redaction would not provide adequate protection of privacy interests at this time.
“I am very concerned with the privacy interests of the individuals that could be impacted by the requested disclosure, including the deceased’s immediate family and friends, the witnesses, and the officers involved,” he wrote.
The Summit County 911 Center also denied Summit Daily’s records requests for all audio recordings and dispatch notes for service calls in the Summit Cove area around the time of the incident, also citing privacy concerns and ongoing investigations.
Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC, the civil rights law firm representing the Foster family, did not return a request for comment left by phone Wednesday.
While FitzSimons said in his letter that now is not the time to disclose the body-camera footage, he did not close the door on the possibility of the footage becoming public in the future.
“An officer involved shooting resulting in a death is an event of major consequence for the public, the Sheriff’s Office, and other first response personnel,” FitzSimons wrote. “The public has a legitimate interest in knowing how law enforcement officers do their jobs, how the decision to use force is made, and how the law enforcement accounts for its actions after such an event.”
He added, “There is no question that a great deal of information regarding this incident will ultimately be disclosed.”