Wilkerson family suing to see police body cam footage

Published 8:50 pm Monday, December 9, 2019

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Two years after Troy police used force in the arrest of then-17-year-old Ulysses Wilkerson III , the family is still seeking the release of body camera footage of the incident.

Angela Williams, Wilkerson’s mother, said the release of the footage is a primary reason that the family has filed a lawsuit in United States District Court.

“I don’t understand why we can only see (footage) when the police are trying to convict somebody, but when the police need to be convicted, we can’t get them,” Williams said. “Alabama needs to change the body cam, dash cam law to release them as soon as an incident happens.”

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Five current and former Troy police officers are named as defendants in the suit, which was filed November 22, 2019. The complaint cites unlawful use of force and seeks damages due to the injuries Wilkerson received at the time.

The suit names Brandon Hicks, Barry Rodgers, Jason Barron, Brandon Kirkland and Michael Watts, as individuals and in the official capacity with the City of Troy Police Department, as defendants. Three of those men – Hicks, Kirkland and Watts – are no longer employed by Troy Police Department.

Attorney Julian McPhillips said law enforcement officers need to be held accountable and that attempts to gain evidence have been “stonewalled” by the department.

“… somebody has to stand up for the Ulysses Wilkersons who get their heads beat to a pulp like a prune,” McPhillips said. “… We had to file a whole lawsuit on a discovery phase months ago to try to get information from the other side so we would know how good our case would be. We’ve heard things from people on the site, things that were said and done, but I didn’t have the audio and video and I still don’t have it. I’ve tried every way to get it, but guess what? It’s stonewall, stonewall, stonewall from the Troy law enforcement community, including the police. They don’t want us to see it.”

Wilkerson was injured when he reportedly fled from police officers in downtown Troy on December 2017. The officers resorted to physical force when the teen resisted arrest, and he was injured in the process. He was transported to Troy Regional Medical Center then to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Wilkerson was charged with obstruction of governmental operations and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors.

The Alabama State Bureau of Investigation and special prosecutors conducted a separate investigation into the incident and presented the findings to a March 2018 grand jury, which declined to indict four unnamed officers, saying the officers acted properly when making the arrest.

A series of rallies and protest in the weeks following called for the public release of body cam footage documenting the arrest.

Law enforcement officials have said that the video cannot be released publicly due to the video showing the arrest of a juvenile. In Alabama, juvenile arrests are not made public.

Wilkerson was arrested again in December 2018 in Troy on drug possession charges. In April 2019, he was arrested and charged by Decatur Police with capital murder in connection with the February shooting death of a Decatur man.