Fayetteville police chief asks court to release bodycam in Jason Walker slaying aftermath

Demonstrators march from the Cumberland County Law Enforcement Center to Fayetteville Police Dept. and back during a Justice for Jason Walker demonstration on Sunday. Jason Walker, 37, was shot and killed on Saturday by an off-duty deputy with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.
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Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins filed a petition with the courts Tuesday requesting the release of body camera footage that will show exchanges between Fayetteville police officers and three witnesses at the scene of the fatal shooting Saturday of Jason Walker by off-duty Cumberland County Sheriff's Office Lt. Jeffrey Hash.

The petition, filed on the third day of demonstrations in the city demanding justice in the case, suggests the request is made to rebut statements made by Elizabeth Ricks and Chase Sorrell. Ricks was a passerby who attempted to render aid to the dying Walker. Sorrell, her fiance, recorded the aftermath of the scene which has since gone viral on the internet.

"Two witnesses have made comments on social media, released a video, and spoke at a protest regarding this incident, generating significant public attention," the petition states. "The body worn camera of officers captured the statements of three witnesses. FPD is seeking public release of the witness statement recordings to advance compelling public interest, release would not create a serious threat to the fair administration of justice."

Under North Carolina law passed in 2016, body worn and dash camera footage is not public record and can only be released by order of the court. Anyone can petition the court for its release.

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Hawkins said in a Sunday press conference and again Wednesday in a radio interview that an individual who witnessed the incident and was interviewed by police, supported Hash's contention that Walker was the aggressor. She said Ricks made a statement at the scene where she did not state Walker as hit by the truck.

"She says she saw the car hit the man. Did she tell you or any other Fayetteville PD personnel … that same thing," radio host Jeff "Goldy" Goldberg asked Hawkins during an interview Wednesday on a WFNC broadcast.

"She did not," Hawkins said.

"She didn't?" Goldy asked.

"That's correct," Hawkins replied.

Ricks has said she attempted to reach a police investigator after giving a statement at the scene but was unable.

"Video of the incident has already been released by persons present at the time and has generated significant public attention," Hawkins' petition said, apparently referencing Sorrell's video which he posted to social media. "Special Prosecutor Kimberly Spahos stated her position on this matter is they do not consent to the release but do not oppose the release."

On Sunday, Hawkins and Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West each handed over the case to outside agencies. The State Bureau of Investigation is conducting the criminal probe and the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, with which Spahos is a prosecutor, is handling any prosecution that may arise.

The court filing states Superior Court Judge James Ammons was provided a copy of the videos on Wednesday to review. A hearing date does not appear to have yet been set.

Military & Crime Editor F.T. Norton can be reached at fnorton@fayobserver.com.

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This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Fayetteville chief asks court to release footage of Jason Walker death

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