DALLAS (AP) — A North Texas district attorney denied a claim Wednesday that her office unlawfully released a video showing a police officer shooting a black man as he walked away.
Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson responded to a complaint this week by the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas alleging that releasing the video before a grand jury heard the case violated state law. The organization, Texas’ largest law enforcement officer union, posted on Facebook that its director had filed the complaint on Tuesday with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office.
A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office said that the attorney general only has jurisdiction over open records crimes if the case is referred by a local prosecutor or if the office is appointed by a judge or special prosecutor to consider the case.
Charley Wilkison, executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, confirmed that he had submitted an official complaint to the attorney general’s office and that the organization wants the attorney general to ask the Texas Rangers to investigate the release of the video. He said the group would consult with its attorneys about next steps regarding the attorney general’s jurisdiction.
“We are willing to go as far as we have to, to make sure that the threshold of justice is met,” Wilkison said.
Wilson wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to Paxton’s office that she hasn’t seen the alleged complaint and only knew about it because of the organization’s Facebook post.
“Texas law presumes that all information in government’s possession is public unless the Attorney General rules otherwise. In this instance, this release was required by law because it was made to the attorney for the person about whom the information relates,” Wilson wrote.
She said at the time of the request by Nate Washington, an attorney for David Collie who was shot in the back and paralyzed after the July incident, the Fort Worth police department had not submitted an internal affairs investigation to the District Attorney’s office.
Wilson wrote that the release did not “precisely follow our office procedure,” which includes seeking an attorney general’s opinion on the record release when an investigation is pending. She said the office received the internal investigation file between the date of the request for the dash-cam video and the date of the release.
Wilson wrote that a new person has been put in charge of open records requests and a better system has been put in place to track internal affairs investigations. She said she also contacted the Fort Worth police department requesting that it complete internal affairs investigations in “a timely manner” suggesting that three months would be appropriate.
Washington released the video to the media in late December. Washington said the Fort Worth officer and a Tarrant County sheriff’s deputy with him were off-duty at the time of the shooting and working a security detail at an apartment complex when police put out a call seeking two shirtless black men involved in a robbery near a gas station.
Authorities said in a news release they issued at the time that Collie pulled a box cutter from his pocket and pointed it at the officers. Washington has said a box cutter found nearby after the shooting did not belong to Collie.
Collie was charged with aggravated assault on a public servant but a grand jury declined to indict him.
Department officials have declined to name the officer or discuss the results of the internal investigation. A grand jury had not reviewed that investigation as of Wednesday.