Officer-involved shooting videos released to involved parties, held back from public

Published 9:22 pm Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Video recordings showing an officer-involved shooting that killed 27-year-oldCedric Pritchard last October will be released, with restrictions, following a hearing in Beaufort County Civil Court on Wednesday.

Petitioning for the release of the recordings were Cedric Pritchard’s mother, Teresa Pritchard, and the Beaufort County NAACP, represented by attorney Sean Cecil. On the other side of the aisle were Washington City Attorney Franz Holscher and Clay Collier, both representing the Washington Police Department and the City of Washington.

Superior Court Judge Waylon Sermons Jr. ordered the release of two recordings, specifically to Teresa Pritchard and her legal representation, as well as Washington Police Department officer Aaron Mobley and his attorney. District Attorney Seth Edwards cleared Mobley, the officer who shot Pritchard, of any criminal wrongdoing in March.

Cecil argued for an unrestricted release of the videos, saying that the shooting had a compelling public interest, as evidenced by nearly 30 people in the courtroom to support the Pritchard family.

“It is still a current issue, as you can see, of great public interest,” Cecil said, referencing the crowd. “I think that factor does compel the unrestricted release here.”

Attorneys for the city, meanwhile, argued that any release should be restricted to Teresa Pritchard and her attorney, specifically to evaluate whether they would file a civil lawsuit.

“If what we’re doing here is trying to get the video to determine if there is going to be a lawsuit over this matter, then (with) the release of this video to the TV stations, every person that sees it is a potential juror and is automatically disqualified,” Collier said.

Both recordings came from the dash camera in Mobley’s patrol car, and neither had audio. Attorneys for the city said the lack of audio from the patrol car or recordings of the transmissions to dispatch was a result of damage to WPD equipment during Hurricane Florence.

Only about five seconds of the video included Cedric Pritchard’s image. One of the recordings was in real-time, while the other contained freeze frames from critical seconds just before the shooting. While Mobley was wearing a body camera at the time, it was not activated.

Ultimately, Sermons ruled the videos would be released with certain restrictions.

“I am sorry for your loss, number one,” Sermons told Teresa Pritchard during the hearing. “Number two, you have an absolute right to have lawyers consider whether you have an action connected to this matter. What I do may affect that action. It may affect your ability to have it tried here in Beaufort County. I don’t want to prevent you from having it tried here. I am thinking at this point, that there is no compelling public interest. There is a compelling personal interest for you, and that is to seek justice that you believe should be heard by the courts.”

Under Sermons’ ruling, the recordings may not be reproduced or copied in any manner, nor may they be posted online.

“The release of the recording would create a serious threat to the fair, impartial and orderly administration of justice in any civil court action filed,” Sermons said.

Speaking after the hearing, Teresa Pritchard said she is still looking at the possibility of further legal action against the City and the WPD. She said that while she was glad Sermons allowed the release, she would have liked to see the video released to the public.

“I think this is part of what’s to come,” said Pastor Aaron Lewis, president of the Beaufort County NAACP. “We’ll talk to the attorney and see what he thinks and go from there.”