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ACLU viewed Henrico Police shooting video: It should be ‘released immediately’

Posted at 3:07 PM, Sep 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-25 18:16:21-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- After viewing body-camera footage of a fatal Henrico Police shooting, members of the Virginia ACLU said their position has not changed -- the video should be released for public viewing.

After first inviting the media to watch video of the fatal shooting, Henrico Police on Wednesday showed the footage to members of civic organizations and community leaders.

"By sharing the footage with members of the media, and today, with community stakeholders, the Division continues to demonstrate our willingness to be open about the tragic events that transpired while the investigation remains ongoing," Henrico Police Chief Hum Cardounel said. "In so doing, we hope to maintain civic trust and minimize supposition and misinformation, but with consideration to Ms. Plack’s dignity."

Henrico Police were called to 57-year-old Gay Plack's West End home on September 17 to perform a doctor-requested welfare check.

Gay Plack

When police entered the home, video showed Plack, who lived with bi-polar disorder, confront officers with an ax.

“Although [the officer] made several attempts and pleaded for her to stop and for her to desist, she continued to come at him with the ax and the officer had to make the most difficult decision in his life and his career, which is to use deadly force,” Chief Cardounel said.

An officer shot Plack in the abdomen.

She later died at the hospital.

After viewing the footage on Wednesday, the ACLU of Virginia issued the following statement:

We appreciate the opportunity to view bodycam video recorded during the tragic shooting of Gay Plack by Henrico County Police Department officers on Sept. 17, as well as to be able to discuss concerns directly with Chief Cardounel and [Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon] Taylor. Nothing we saw or heard during the meeting has persuaded us that the following should not happen:

All video of the incident should be released to the public immediately.

The names of the two officers who shot Ms. Plack should be released immediately, per our policy that no more than 48 hours should pass after such an incident before that happens.

An independent investigation of the incident should be conducted by a prosecutor from another jurisdiction who does not have a working relationship that is intertwined with the law enforcement agency whose employees’ actions are being investigated.

We commend Chief Cardounel for allowing advocates to view the full video, which he did not have to do.

We commend Ms. Taylor for asking two outside prosecutors to review the eventual results of her investigation, which she did not have to do.

These actions are not enough, however, for full transparency or to assure the public that the investigation of this horrific incident was conducted in an impartial manner. The public trust is more important than any rationale that can be offered for not taking the actions listed above.

Henrico Police indicated it would not release additional details, nor the body cam video to the public as the investigation into the shooting remained ongoing.

"A thorough investigation is imperative to the family, community, and the officers involved," Henrico Police spokesperson Lt. Matt Pecka said. "The legal next-of-kin has been invited to view the body-worn camera footage; to date, they have not done so. At this time, we are not releasing the body-worn camera footage to the general public, out of respect to the memory of Ms. Plack and the privacy of those directly involved."

Hampton, Stafford prosecutors to independently review fatal Henrico Police shooting

Henrico Commonwealth's Attorney Shannon Taylor announced Monday that two other Commonwealth’s Attorneys will independently review the officer-involved shooting.

Taylor said she would continue to review the case, but called on City of Hampton Commonwealth’s Attorney Anton Bell and Stafford County Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Olsen to “ensure a complete, thorough and objective investigation.”

Taylor said she would not recuse herself, but she would instead release independent findings, as well as her own.

“I do not want any doubt in anyone’s mind that this unfortunate tragic incident receives anything but a thorough, objective, and independent review,” she said in a statement Monday.

This is a developing story.