Motion to quash withdrawn in records case

  • In US
  • 2023-01-21 00:14:00Z
  • By McAlester News-Capital, Okla.

Jan. 20-A district attorney withdrew a motion to quash the News-Capital's Open Records Act request for police videos after officers fatally shot a man.

District 18 District Attorney Chuck Sullivan filed a motion to quash the McAlester News-Capital's Open Records request Wednesday, and attorneys for the paper filed a response claiming the motion was premature and unnecessary ahead of a Friday hearing over the motion in Pittsburg County court.

Sullivan withdrew his motion Friday and the News-Capital plans to continue pursuing the records.

"We believe it was appropriate for the district attorney to withdraw the motion and we will continue taking steps to obtain these open records," MN-C Publisher Reina Owens said. "We will continue to pursue these records that we believe should be made available to the public to ensure transparency to constituents."

Officers initially responded for a reported mental health crisis Saturday night to the 1900 block of Green Meadows Drive in McAlester. Investigators said a man - identified in court records as James Klembara - disregarded law enforcement commands to put down a carbine rifle before officers fatally shot him.

The News-Capital on Tuesday submitted an Open Records Act request to the city of McAlester for the McAlester Police Department's 911 calls, dispatch logs, incident reports, use of force statements, and body cam footage from responding officers during the fatal shooting. The News-Capital also submitted an Open Records Act request to Krebs Police Department for body cam footage, use of force reports, and incident reports for the incident.

Sullivan's Wednesday morning motion to quash claimed the entirety of the videos requested were redactable under state law and requested the court order the videos be prohibited from release.

A city of McAlester representative on Wednesday afternoon declined to fulfill the News-Capital's records request "at this time," stating no information could be released due to an ongoing investigation.

The city's response essentially made the motion to quash moot and did not cite a statute as reason for declining the request.

Krebs officials had not fulfilled the News-Capital's request nor offered a response as of Friday afternoon.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation declined to further answer the News-Capital's questions Thursday morning about the incident, citing an ongoing investigation.

Sullivan's motion that he has since withdrawn asked that Open Records Act requests for "video footage recorded on body and dashboard cameras" during the Jan. 14 incident involving McAlester Police Officers Joseph Barlow and Eli Copeland, Krebs Police Officer Corey Cantrell, and James Klembara be prohibited from release pending the investigation.

The motion states the officers fired at Klembara "ultimately causing his death."

Sullivan's motion accurately states 51 O.S. § 24A.8 (10) (b) allows law enforcement agencies to "redact or obscure specific portions of the recording that, among other reasons, depict the death of a person or a dead body, depict acts of severe violence resulting in great bodily injury."

But the law states videos can be redacted for depiction of a person's death or great bodily injury unless those instances were "effected by a law enforcement officer."

51 O.S. 24 A.20 also states Open Records Access "shall not be denied because a public body or public official is using or has taken possession of such records for investigatory purposes or has placed the records in a litigation or investigation file."

OSBI said the man stood in the doorway with a carbine rifle when officers arrived at the home.

Investigators said the man disregarded commands to put down the weapon before officers shot the man and then rendered aid before medics arrived.

"A loaded carbine rifle and a high-capacity magazine were recovered from the scene," OSBI said in a press release.

Officials said the man was later taken to the McAlester Regional Heath Center, where he was pronounced dead.

MPD Chief Kevin Hearod said his officers will be placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.


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