Nearly 15 months have passed since Dallas Shatley was shot and killed in an altercation with the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office last summer, and the public has yet to see the police filmed footage from that night.
Tuesday marks 447 days since the incident and the public has still heard little in the way of concrete answers as to how, exactly, Shatley lost his life on July 8, 2015.
That needs to change and it needs to change soon. Releasing the video might not answer all questions surrounding the shooting but it could go a long way.
Ashe County Sheriff James Williams has seen the footage from that night and the man in charge of the ongoing investigation into the shooting, Davidson County District Attorney Garry Frank, has the authority to release the video to the public.
According to previous statements by Williams, a deputy was dragged by a vehicle driven by Shatley and shots were fired.
Frank has been questioned numerous times about the release of the footage from that night but has not indicated whether that will ever happen and time just might be running out due to a new state law that goes into effect Oct. 1.
HB972, which overwhelmingly passed the state house and senate earlier this year, effectively shifts the public’s access to police dash and body cameras. It was signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory this summer.
The new law means body camera and dash camera footage are no longer public record, a shift the Jefferson Post argues defeats the purpose of recording police interactions with the public. Instead, the recordings are now considered “personnel records.”
The new law provides some provisions for gaining access to footage, but law enforcement agencies can deny requests on several grounds, which would force the public to seek a court order to compel law enforcement to release the recordings.
The law is unclear if the footage shot prior to the law’s passage – like the Shatley shooting – is covered by the provisions, but Frank should release the videos this week to ensure the public has access to information it needs to see.
Frank said in July he expected to finish his investigation into the shooting by mid-August. That deadline has come and gone.
It’s been 447 days. Work faster, please.