ideastream Lawsuits Against CMHA, Cleveland Continue

A Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority camera attached to the corner of the building in the King Kennedy housing complex would have captured both the parking lot (not pictured, to the right) and the lawn where Arthur Keith fell
A Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority camera attached to the corner of the building in the King Kennedy housing complex would have captured both the parking lot (not pictured, to the right) and the lawn where Arthur Keith fell. [ideastream file photo]

After a court-ordered virtual mediation Thursday, ideastream is still seeking video and public records in the November 2020 shooting death of Arthur Keith and continuing its lawsuits against the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority and the city of Cleveland.

Keith, 19, was shot and killed Nov. 13 by a CMHA police officer at the King Kennedy public housing development on Cleveland’s East Side. After repeated fruitless records requests, ideastream filed lawsuits against the housing authority and the city, whose police department is in charge of the shooting investigation, on March 7 in the 8th District Court of Appeals.

During the mediation, an ideastream journalist and lawyers viewed video footage showing Keith running around the corner of a building, appearing to be holding his midsection, and falling to the ground. After falling into a patch of grass, Keith does not appear to move again.

Two officers approach Keith and kneel over him before stepping away as bystanders began to gather near Keith’s body. An unidentified person runs from the direction Keith came, carrying something and kneels over him. About seven minutes after appearing on the video, Keith is taken away by paramedics.

The 22-minute video is from a security camera on top of one of the King Kennedy housing complex high rises, positioned too far away from the parking lot to show details such as faces, items people are carrying or uniforms and badges. The shooting occured outside its view.

CMHA has declined to publicly release any video footage of the incident, citing an ongoing investigation by the city of Cleveland.

After the mediation session, Andrew Geronimo, who is representing ideastream in both cases and is the director of the First Amendment Clinic at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, said he and ideastream will continue to push for answers and the release of the requested records under the Ohio Public Records Act.

“In our view, we still haven't been given a satisfactory reason under the applicable law why these records have been withheld, and we continue to question whether these government offices have met their obligations under the Ohio Public Records Act to maintain the records they create and to produce copies of those records to the public,” Geronimo said. “One of the more pressing questions we have yet to receive a clear answer about is why there is apparently no footage from the camera that was closest to the officer at the time he shot Arthur Keith.”

While neither Cleveland police nor CMHA have publicly acknowledged the existence of a video of the shooting, both have filed video evidence with the court, which is held under seal.

“We’d like to press on and get those answers,” Geronimo said. “It’s part of the reason we filed the lawsuit.”

Few details have been released by either police or the public housing authority since Keith’s death. On the day of the shooting, Cleveland police released a statement saying CMHA police were investigating a vehicle connected to a shooting the night before when they came across Keith inside. The official police report – which said Keith was armed and pointed a gun at an officer – conflicts with eyewitness statements that Keith was not armed and was running away from officers when he was shot.

The video ideastream continues to seek is from a surveillance camera overlooking the parking lot, above the front door of the CMHA resident who witnessed the shooting.

According to the autopsy released by the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner in March, four months after his death, Keith was shot once in the back.

Geronimo said Thursday neither he nor his client are satisfied with the information that has been released to the public so far.

Mike McIntyre, ideastream's executive editor, said this video and any others should be released to the public, not just viewed by a reporter in private mediation. The lawsuit will continue for that reason.

“The public has the right to see all of it," he said. "We hope for a quick resolution to this already lengthy lawsuit.”

Geronimo expressed hope for “some clear direction about how the Public Records Act should be strictly enforced.”

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