Investigators Waited 6 Days To Secure Footage Of CMHA Police Shooting
Cleveland police officers investigating the November shooting of Arthur Keith by a public housing police officer waited six days to secure as evidence a video recorder that may have held footage of the shooting.
Detectives then waited two more weeks to pick up the recorder from Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) police.
According to court documents filed in ideastream’s ongoing public records lawsuit against CMHA, cameras at the King Kennedy housing complex, where the Nov. 13 shooting occurred, send footage to a video recorder in the complex’s management office.
After Keith’s death, the video recorder sat in the King Kennedy office until Nov. 19, when Cleveland police asked to have it secured as evidence.
Former Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank, now the vice president of law enforcement strategy at the Center for Policing Equity, said it should have been taken from the office the same day as the shooting, the following morning at the latest.
“I don’t know what excuse you could give for not doing that,” Burbank said. “There’s really none. You know? Too busy? None of this flies. If there was a piece of evidence that covers what’s going on, why wouldn’t you grab that as soon as you can?”
Court documents also show Cleveland homicide detectives, who investigate any use of deadly force by a CMHA officer, waited until Dec. 2 – 19 days after the shooting – to retrieve the recorder.
“Evidence is weighed in court as to how quickly it was secured and gathered and noted,” Burbank said. “So the longer you wait on that thing, that allows the question: Did somebody tamper with it? Did someone else have access to it?”
It’s not clear what footage was captured by CMHA cameras, but at least one looks to be well-positioned on the outside of a building to capture the entire incident.
During a confidential mediation between attorneys for ideastream and CMHA in May, ideastream 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.
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, too far away from the parking lot to show details such as faces, items people are carrying or uniforms and badges. The shooting occurred outside its view.
CMHA has declined to publicly release this or any other video footage of the incident, citing an ongoing investigation by the city of Cleveland and the presence of an uncharged suspect in the video.
Ideastream is still seeking video and public records related to Keith’s death and continuing its lawsuits against the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority and the city of Cleveland.