Video not released in student shooting

September 29, 2009 5:49:55 PM PDT
A judge ruled Tuesday not to release police dash cam video from a shooting that left a University of North Carolina fraternity president dead.Courtland Smith, 20, of Houston, Texas, died on August 23 along Interstate 85 in Randolph County when police shot him shortly after he called 911 to report he was feeling suicidal.

Lawyers for ABC11 and other media outlets argued almost two weeks ago that the tape likely shows if officers acted correctly - and it's in the public interest to know.

But a judge in Randolph County ordered Tuesday the video be held, saying it could jeopardize the trial if anyone is charged in the case.

"The need for a complete investigation into the death of a young college student shot on the side of the road in the middle of the night or the right of the State of North Carolina to potentially prosecute someone for the death of another without having that right jeopardized or the right of a potential defendant to a fair trial when facing severe penalties are paramount and far outweigh the need of the public to review the actions of its agencies," the judge wrote.

Click here to read more of the court documents

The court decided the video would remain in the custody of the State Bureau of Investigation as a part of their on-going criminal investigation.

The judge said he reviewed both dash camera videos in their entirety and said the video did not show Smith being shot.

The judge did say it showed Smith and the officers before the shooting and actions taken by the officers after the shooting.

Despite the ruling to hold the video, the judge did rule that the un-edited version of the 911 calls should be made available to the public.

Earlier this month, officials released edited recordings of the 911 call Smith made that night and radio traffic between officers.

Click to listen to the first recording (caution, graphic language) | Click here to listen to the second recording

In the call, Smith tells an operator he's been drinking and he's armed with a 9mm.

"I'm trying to kill myself on I-40," Smith told the 911 operator.

Smith's speech is slow, halting, and slurred.

The operator begins to ask Smith a series of questions to try and figure out where he was and what kind of car he was driving.

The dispatcher continues to talk to Smith until Archdale police officers catch up to his Toyota 4-Runner in Randolph County.

In the 911 call, you can hear Smith get out of his vehicle and speak to officers. In the new tape released, you can hear them yelling at him.

“Stay in the car! Stay in the car!” they say.

“Archdale: Subject is getting back into his vehicle, stand by,” one of the officers calls in.

Then a few seconds later:

“Subject down! Subject down!”

And then another officer saying “shots fired, shots fired.”

The NC State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the death. The Archdale Police Department has placed the officer who shot Smith - Jeremy Paul Flinchum - on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. A second officer at the scene - whose name was not released - is also on leave.

On Tuesday, the judge stated that based on similar cases, it is likely that a decision would be made whether to prosecute a defendant for Smith's shooting within 3 to 4 months, possibly less.

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