GASTONIA, N.C. (WBTV) - A superior court judge has ruled that law enforcement video will be released related to a July police chase in Gaston County that left one dead and another seriously injured.
The pursuit happened on July 14. Gaston County Sheriffs deputies were pursuing 41-year-old Joshua Soule when, according to NC Highway Patrol, he struck Antrel Dion Garnigan and another man. Garnigan was killed and the other man was seriously injured.
After the incident was over, however, witnesses at the scene and family of the surviving victim say that a deputy’s car also hit Garnigan.
WBTV Chief Investigative Reporter Nick Ochsner petitioned the court for release of the video. Ochsner filed the petition individually, and not in his capacity as a news reporter.
On Tuesday, a judge ordered the recordings be released to Ochsner on August 23.
“The Recordings arise from and relate to matters of significant public interest,” court documents state, in part. “There is significant and intense disagreement within the community as to whose car struck the two individuals, Mr. Soule’s or the Deputies'. There is therefore good cause to release the Recordings, and their release to the public is necessary to advance a compelling public interest.”
According to the court documents, the release of the recordings - which show the camera footage from multiple officers and include the chase and Soule’s arrest - “will not create a serious threat to the fair, impartial and orderly administration of justice” for ensuring a fair and impartial jury.
The documents state that all parties involved have been notified of the recordings’ release, and that the victims’ families will be able to review the videos prior them being made public.
In court on July 22, an attorney for the sheriff’s office said they did not oppose release of the video.
Gaston County District Attorney Locke Bell and a public defender representing Soule, however, both opposed release of the video. They claimed it could jeopardize their investigations and gathering of evidence.
The district attorney informed the court that highway patrol and an independent expert assessed the deputy’s vehicle after the accident and determined it did not strike a person. The district attorney also said that the video would not shed any light on whether the deputy struck Gernigan.
Ochsner argued that there was a compelling public interest for release of the video because of the conflicting accounts from witnesses at the scene and law enforcement officers investigating the crash.
Ochsner also told Bell that it was ultimately the court’s decision whether to release the video, when to release it and whether any of it should be redacted. The judge had not seen the video as of the court date, but the district attorney delivered a copy to him during the hearing.