Police chief defends withholding of videos

Baltimore County Police Chief Terry Sheridan is defending the decision not to release videos from recent incidents in which county officers have shot suspects.

At a meeting Tuesday in Arbutus with a community relations group for the county’s Wilkens Precinct, Sheridan called the county body-camera initiative a “good program,” but said he supports State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger’s position not to release video until the conclusion of a trial.

County police have shot six people in four separate incidents since January. Two people died in those incidents.

Body cameras captured elements of all the incidents, but police have made the videos public in only one case. Officials have said either that they are still investigating the other shootings or that prosecutors have told them the footage will likely be used as evidence in trials.

Sheridan said not releasing footage helps ensure that potential jurors would not be prejudiced before a trial. He also said he believes some footage has no probative value — meaning it would not prove anything important in a trial.

“We’ve taken the position that if it’s something very graphic [and] it has no probative value, we aren’t going to release that stuff because all that’s going to do is sensationalize it,” he said.

Shellenberger has also said footage that could be used at trial should not be released to the public because of its potential impact on jurors, and that it should not be released before an investigation into a police shooting has been closed.

The department released footage of a January shooting in which an officer fatally shot 59-year-old Kerry Lee Coomer, an Overlea man police said threatened his family and raised a rifle as an officer talked to him. Officials said that footage could be released because the case did not result in charges against a suspect.

In three other incidents, footage has not been released to the public. In March, two officers investigating a store robbery in Woodlawn shot at a vehicle coming toward them, killing Rashad Daquan Opher, 20, and wounding two others.

By Jon Bleiweis

Baltimore Sun reporters Alison Knezevich and Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

Comments are closed.