CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said she and members of the Charlotte City Council made the decision to view the full video from the shooting upon the advice of the city attorney.
WBTV asked Lyles about the decision to view the full video ahead of Monday’s City Council work session after she and city staff refused to speak on camera or answer specific questions from reporters for days.
Specifically, WBTV has asked two questions: who made the decision to watch the full video? And was the council aware that it was violating a judge’s order by watching the video prior to the public release of the video?
The Charlotte Observer first reported Thursday that the council watched the full body camera video from Officer Wende Kerl, who shot and killed Danquirs Franklin while responding to a call in the parking lot of a Burger King on Beatties Ford Road on March 25.
WBTV’s Chief Investigative Reporter Nick Ochsner petitioned for the release of the video from the shooting and a judge granted that request on April 11.
The judged ordered the video released. Specifically, the judge ordered the video be provided to Ochsner and a second reporter who had also petitioned for the video at 12:00 p.m. on Monday, April 15 and then ordered the video not be released to the public until 2:00 p.m. that same day.
But, in her interview Monday night, Lyles said the council watched the video before the judge’s order said it could be made public.
The state law governing release of body camera video does not contain any provision that allows for a city council to view the video without or prior to a judge’s order.
A bill is currently pending in the North Carolina House of Representatives that would add such a provision.
When a WBTV reporter approached Lyles at the government center Monday night, she, at first, said she had already answered all of the questions related to the council’s viewing of the full body camera video.
But she hadn’t.
When pressed to answer who made the decision for the council to watch the full video prior to the time the judge ordered it released, Lyles said it was a council decision.
“That was a council decision that the city attorney advised us on,” Lyles said. In response to a follow-up question from WBTV, Lyles couldn’t say whether CMPD Chief Kerr Putney had any knowledge of the council reviewing the video.
State law places him in charge of releasing or not releasing the video.
“At this time, I’m not aware of that answer because everything is going so quickly and so fast,” the Mayor said when asked about whether Putney has any knowledge of the council watching the video.
Lyles wouldn’t answer the second question WBTV has been asking: whether anyone on council knew they were violating state law and a judge’s order by watching the video when they did.
“At the time you were viewing it, did the council know the judge hadn’t ordered the public release until 2:00?" a WBTV reporter asked.
“I’ve already said that we knew what we knew and we were under the advice of the city attorney,” Lyles said.
“So do you believe you should have seen that video when you watched it?” the reporter asked.
Before Lyles could answer, her spokesman interrupted and ended the interview.
Lyles and other city council members addressed the video later in their business meeting. The council is divided on how to respond and when.
Councilman Braxton Winston says CMPD withholding the entire video from a judge was reckless.
“That’s such a flagrant skewing of the evidence in this case calls into the approach we have taken.” Winston said.
Dimple Ajmera and Matt Newton joined Winston in calling for immediate policy reviews and the possibility of independent oversight of investigations.
“These are questions that ultimately we don’t have, as a council, we don’t have to wait to act on,” Newton said.
But Lyles lead a camp including Julie Eiselt and Ed Driggs calling for patience.
“I think all of those are noble objectives but the first and foremost thing is to actually resolve what we’re dealing with right now today,” Lyles said.
“I’m just asking the community to allow this investigation to take its course,” Eiselt said.
Viewpoint about the extended video differ dramatically. Councilman Larken Egleston told WBTV the longer video does not contain any “bombshells” but Winston saw it differently.
“Unfortunately Mr. Franklin did not receive the most basic acts of dignity at the time he needed it the most,” Winston said.
CMPD has been ordered to appear before a judge Tuesday morning to explain why they didn’t release the full video or even send the full 11:00 video to a judge for review prior to the first hearing on whether the video should be released. That hearing comes in response to a motion filed by Ochsner asking a judge to hold CMPD in contempt.