NAACP calls for release of body cam footage after grand jury decision

Published 9:00 pm Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Pike County NAACP is calling on Troy officials to release body cam footage of the forceful arrest of a black juvenile on Dec. 23, 2017.

“The Pike County Branch of the NAACP position on the administration of criminal justice is unchanged,” said Dianna Bascomb, local NAACP president, in a statement released March 2. “We expect and demand a criminal justice system that is transparent and forthcoming to the community with regard to all citizens, this includes Mr. (Ulysses) Wilkerson.”

Wilkerson, 17, was identified as the juvenile injured in the arrest by family members, who circulated photos of his bloody and swollen face on social media following the encounter.

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A grand jury last week cleared all officers involved in the arrest of wrongdoing, including one officer who was placed on administrative leave shortly following the start of the investigation.

Since the incident occurred, the family, community and protestors have clamored for the release of body cam footage of the incident, which has been confirmed to exist by District Attorney Tom Anderson and special prosecutors Michael Jackson and Tommy Smith.

“We call upon the District Attorney, Mr. Michael Jackson, Mayor, and Chief of Police to release the video,” Bascomb said. “The NAACP is committed to equality for all and accepts nothing less.”

At least for now though, Smith says no video can be released, as he and Jackson requested a protective order to prevent any evidence from being released prior to the conclusion of all litigation regarding the case.

“The practical reason is there are still matters waiting to be dealt with in court,” Smith said. “This is not specific to this case, it is something by rule that is supposed to occur anyway.”

Although Smith said he is not legally able to acknowledge whether there is a juvenile case pending, Wilkerson was charged with obstructing governmental operations and resisting arrest in connection with the incident.

Smith said once litigation is resolved, he has no issue with the video being released.

“At some point, when everything is concluded, we don’t have any problem with it being released,” Smith said. “The jury spoke for themselves that the officers showed great restraint. We couldn’t have been more impressed with the professional way (the officers) handled themselves that night.”

Smith said that he and Jackson will have to “revisit” the protective order blocking the release of the evidence once all legal issues have been concluded.

Bascomb called the order a “scapegoat” and pointed to the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014 as an example of video evidence being released quickly by law enforcement.

“If you go back to Michael Brown or any of these (national) cases, there was video footage, whether the person involved was an adult or a juvenile,” Bascomb said. “With Tamir Rice they released the video and we saw before the trial that he did not have a real gun pointed at the officer.”

Bascomb said she doesn’t expect anyone to break the law if there is an order precluding release of the video evidence, but said the release of the video is necessary for transparency.

“In the absence of a protective order or any law that precludes the release of the video footage, the public has the right to view the video whether a crime was committed or not,” Bascomb said. “It is transparency that we are after.”