D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser authorized the release of edited body camera and nearby security footage from three police-involved deaths Friday.
The footage is from the 2018 deaths of Marqueese Alston, Jeffrey Price and D’Quan Young.
“I implore you to remember that there are families whose lives have been forever changed by these incidents,” Bowser said. “In all cases, including those where the family has chosen not to release footage, I ask that you respect their privacy.”
Alston was shot and killed by two officers in Southeast D.C. in June 2018. The Georgetown Law Civil Rights Clinic filed a $100 million lawsuit against D.C. last month on behalf of his mother, Kenithia Alston, demanding transparency.
Price was killed in a crash with a police vehicle in Northeast D.C. in May 2018. The officer involved was suspended for a period of time. Price’s death was ruled an accident. His family is suing the police department for wrongful death.
Young was shot and killed by an off-duty officer near the Brentwood Recreation Center in Northeast D.C. in May 2018. The officer was not charged.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C. reviewed the Young and Alston shootings, and declined to prosecute either case. The police department’s Use of Force Review Board classified the shootings as justified.
Some of the videos released contain graphic footage of the injuries and aftermath. Both shooting-related videos begin with an MPD statement stating the department “recognizes the sanctity of human life, and that any loss of life is a tragic outcome for a family and a community.”
The videos also contain detailed explanations of the department’s evidence in its perspective. For example, in the Alston video, the video used a freeze frame and graphics to highlight a handgun in his hand just before the shooting began.
Price was being pursued by police when a cruiser ran a stop sign to block his path. The released video emphasizes that he was speeding in a stolen motorbike in the opposite lane. Lastly, the Young video presents the department’s stance that the off-duty officer was on his way to a cookout when Young crossed the street to confront him and “brandished a handgun.”
The body camera and security footage are now being released following emergency legislation passed by D.C. Council in June that included sweeping police reforms.
Among issues covered in the legislation are prohibitions on neck restraints, or “chokeholds,” and the requirement that police and the mayor make the name of an officer involved in a serious use of force public, as well as their body camera footage, within 72 hours.
Bowser signed the legislation, which lasts for 90 days.
She said that she believes her office has worked with the D.C. Council.
“I have explained previously my concerns about rushing to make changes to the law without adequate public input, and I remain concerned about that,” Bowser said.
“I’m especially concerned about unintended consequences that haven’t been thoroughly thought through. The council amended some and made adjustments to the emergency (legislation) to address some of my concerns.”
One of the adjustments to the legislation includes the right of the families to reject the release of the body camera footage. Families from four other incidents decided against releasing the footage from those deaths.
In a statement Friday, Marqueese Alston’s mother, Kenithia Alston, called the release a “PR stunt.”
“I’ve been asking for the full and raw footage for the past two years so I could understand the truth about what happened to my son. Instead, I’ve been forced to see the moments of my son’s death for a second time with many, many unanswered questions,” she said.
Black Lives Matter D.C. issued a statement to the Associated Press, calling the videos “hand picked, heavily narrated clips” that don’t reveal much.
April Goggans, a core organizer with the local chapter, said, “It is clear that more footage exists and that all of DC should be in the streets demanding to know why MPD has hand picked these short, edited clips. It feels like more of the same purposefully evasive game Mayor Bowser and Chief Newsham have been playing around transparency and accountability.”
D.C. police Chief Peter Newsham said during the news conference that he “can’t even begin to imagine how the families feel to have to watch the video of the loss of the life of a loved one into those families. And, as the mayor said, even the families who chose not to have their videos be public, I want to extend my condolences to those families for losing a loved one.”
“The council has determined that this is the statute that’s the law of the land, and we’re going to abide by it,” Newsham added.
Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Kevin Donahue said the release of footage wouldn’t answer every question about the incidents.
“The videos themselves are what they are, which is to say they resolve some questions that people may have, but they don’t resolve others,” Donahue said.
D.C. police released the edited video footage online. Full, redacted video from the incident with Price is listed as “forthcoming.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.