Gastonia police release body cam footage of controversial U.S. veteran arrest
A Gaston County judge ruled in favor of releasing all of the body camera recordings from October 9 and 13, 2021.
GASTONIA, N.C. (WBTV) - Almost one year after his arrest, a U.S. Army veteran has received the body camera footage from the day he was arrested last fall.
The footage was released Thursday, July 28 -- the day after an emergency hearing took place as a result of multiple petitions filed by veteran Joshua Rohrer, his attorney, the Gaston County District Attorney, and the Gastonia Police Department.
Judge Phillips ruled the release of all portions of the videos is necessary. The recordings went under an in-camera review on July 19.
Rohrer burst into tears and the courtroom erupted in applause as they learned the videos would now be public.
“I’m glad that the fight for the release of the body camera footage is finally over,” Rohrer said. “I wouldn’t have had the strength by myself I wanted to give up so many times.”
WARNING: THIS IS RAW POLICE BODY CAM. CONTENT MAY BE GRAPHIC.
Rohrer was homeless at the time of his arrest on October 13, 2021. He was walking along the intersection of Cox Road in Gastonia with his service dog Sunshine Rae when he was arrested and charged with panhandling and resisting an officer. Rohrer claims he was not panhandling.
A Gaston County grand jury twice reviewed the charges against Mr. Rohrer stemming from his Oct. 13 arrest and found probable cause for those charges.
City of Gastonia Code Section 6-228 prohibits soliciting or accepting contributions while in a street or median from the occupants of a stopped vehicle. North Carolina General Statute §14-223 makes it a misdemeanor to willfully and unlawfully resist, delay or obstruct a public officer in discharging or attempting to discharge an official duty.
Police admitted to tasing Rohrer’s service dog during the arrest.
Rohrer and Sunshine were separated. She ran away from the home she was staying, was hit, and killed by a car days later.
Rohrer received another service dog, Justice Rae, in December, but the hole in his heart remains.
Joshua Rohrer and his attorney Andrew LaBreche filed two separate petitions from the day Rohrer was arrested. His most recent petition was filed on July 15. Rohrer accused Officers Maurice Taylor and Cierra Brooks of not treating him properly during his arrest.
Rohrer’s charges from October 13 were dropped earlier this month after Rohrer reached a plea agreement with the DA’s office for an unrelated charge of driving while his license was revoked on July 6. He also agreed to participate in the Veteran’s Treatment Court.
“We believe now that the criminal case has been resolved the public should see, they have a right to see what took place there at Cox Road,” District Attorney Travis Page said.
Only July 20, the Gaston County District Attorney Travis Page and the Gastonia Police Department filed their own petition for the release of the video from October 9 and October 13 regarding Rohrer and Officer Taylor’s and Officer Brooks’ interactions.
Gastonia officials say Rohrer accused Officer Taylor of treating him improperly on October 9, yet Rohrer and his attorney did not consent to the release of the videos from October 9.
According to the Gastonia Police Department, an officer encountered Rohrer in the median on Gaston Mall Drive at Cox Road on October 9, a few days prior to his arrest.
During that interaction, the officer warned Rohrer that he could not stand in the median, but could stand on the sidewalk. During a second interaction several minutes after Rohrer moved to the sidewalk, the officer spoke with Rohrer about Rohrer’s military service and checked to see if Rohrer was aware of and if he was receiving any services that are available to veterans.
Rohrer’s attorney said they were not aware of what was in the October 9 video and said it was not explained to them hence why they did not consent to release it.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Page says he invited them to watch the video but they did not come to watch it.
During the hearing, the Gastonia Police Department attorney Laura Burton objected to the release of a couple of the clips in the recordings.
She says one of the clips showed an officer responding to the scene on October 13, interacting with a third-party driver. She says the officer approached the driver with the information they knew at the time, which later proved to be incorrect.
She says the department has been flooded with threats and violence.
“I assert that there is absolutely no compelling public purpose to have that out there. That officer should not become the brunt of another social media attack or whatever you want to call it,” Burton said.
Burton also objected to other clips which showed the contact information of officers.
The judge ruled that all of the clips be released.
“I’m going to release it and let everybody see it and make their own judgments and see what happened that day, what the police did to me and Sunshine,” Rohrer said.
Rohrer says he wants the officers involved to be charged for their actions during his arrest and that all law enforcement officers use this to learn de-escalation tactics.
“[I hope] that officers will learn to de-escalate and approach situations differently because this all could’ve been avoided if they had listened to me and they wouldn’t have violated my rights,” he said.
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