Charles Byers' family still facing resistance to make video of fatal police shooting public

Michael and Peggy Byers
Posted at 6:15 PM, May 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-02 18:19:20-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. — The family of a man who was shot and killed by Chesterfield Police continues to face resistance in their attempts to make the body camera footage of the fatal interaction available to the public.

Peggy and Michael Byers, the parents of Charles Byers, said that even though they never want to watch the footage themselves, they believe there's value in sharing it with others.

“I think it's so good to have other eyes outside of the police department, outside of the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, to look and see, because there is more than one opinion and people do see things differently," Peggy Byers told CBS 6 in a previous interview. “I think it's important that anybody who works in law enforcement or healthcare or anything like that has an opportunity to see what a mental health crisis looks like and learn how best to react and respond to people in that crisis.”

Michael and Peggy Byers
Michael and Peggy Byers

The shooting happened July 8, 2023, near Wycliff Court after a neighbor called 911 to report that Byers attempted to break into her home. The neighbor reported that Byers damaged her window and told her that he thought he was at his family's house.

The family's attorney Paul Curley has been critical of how police handled the incident and disputed the narrative initially released by police. Chesterfield Police originally stated that Byers "continued to advance on the officers, leaving them no choice but to shoot him."

Man with hatchet fatally shot by officer; neighbor heard at least 6 shots

Local News

PHOTOS: Man with hatchet fatally shot by officer in Chesterfield

WTVR CBS 6 Web Staff
6:44 PM, Jul 08, 2023

However, the video, which was shown to CBS 6 in a private viewing to reporters, does not show Byers advancing on officers.

“I am certain that the public would be shocked to see what happened on this video," Curley said.

The 45-second interaction showed Byers backing away from officers nearly the entire time as the officers approached him.

Byers held a hatchet down by his side and did not raise it above his waist.

Police gave numerous commands for Byers to drop the weapon, but he did not comply.

An officer deployed a taser, but it bounced off Byers' body and was not effective.

Byers turned his head to the side while still backing away, and that's when an officer shot at him five times.

Byers then turned around to run away, and the officer shot him two more times at his back.

In total, five of the seven fired gunshots struck Byers.

imani thumbnails - 2024-04-10T220822.442.png

Local News

CBS 6 viewed video showing police shoot, kill Charles Byers. Here's what we saw.

Tyler Layne
10:03 PM, Apr 10, 2024

Commonwealth's Attorney Erin Barr cleared the officers of any wrongdoing and justified the shooting. Ultimately, she concluded that the officers had a reasonable belief to fear for their safety as well as the safety of neighbors who could've been in the area.

Upon the conclusion of the criminal investigation, Curley requested the video from police under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), citing a FOIA code that grants families of deceased victims access to investigative records.

However, Chesterfield Police denied the request.

They said the video had already been provided to Curley as part of a protective order.

The protective order pertains to a federal lawsuit filed by the family against HCA Healthcare and Richmond Police in which Chesterfield Police's investigative records were subpoenaed. That $35 million lawsuit alleges HCA's Chippenham Hospital and Richmond Police improperly released and removed Byers from a psychiatric facility while he was under a temporary detention order just 36 hours before Byers' death.

The protective seal only permits the records to be accessed and used specifically for the lawsuit and essentially shields the materials from public dissemination.

However, Curley argued that FOIA and the protective order are two different things that serve two different purposes.

“[Chesterfield is] essentially evading or circumventing their obligation under FOIA," Curley said.

New court filings showed that Chesterfield has requested an extended seal on the records. Police said it's necessary because the 1,500+ files contain "private, confidential, personal identifying information and personnel information." They said that includes identification of medical staff and county employees.

The defendants in the lawsuit agreed with the county's position.

But Curley filed an objection, arguing the protective order is not needed.

In his objection, Curley accused Chesterfield Police of attempting to "use the entry of protective order in this case to sidestep its mandatory FOIA obligation."

“FOIA was enacted for a purpose, and that is basically to make government more transparent, and Chesterfield is doing everything they can to thwart the spirit and purpose of FOIA," Curley told CBS 6.

Curley added in his objection, "At every stage since the shooting of Charles Byers on July 8, 2023 the CCPD has refused to disclose any portion of the criminal investigative files to the parents of the victim of the crime(s) that it investigated by claiming that its investigation was ongoing, until April 2, 2024 when the body-worn camera videos were shown to plaintiffs’ counsel in a room surrounded by CCPD officers."

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Roderick Young ruled that Curley is correct in stating that "FOIA obligations exist separate and apart from the instant litigation and do not conflict with the" protective order.

The judge stated that the protective order shall have no bearing on disclosures required by FOIA, particularly the section that pertains to criminal investigative files in closed cases.

However, the judge said upon receipt of items that qualify as confidential documents and information under the protective order, those records "must be treated as such."

CBS 6 reached out to a county attorney Thursday for comment and did not hear back.

Depend on CBS 6 News and for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email to send a tip.



Watch 'The Jennifer Hudson Show' weekdays at 3 p.m. on CBS 6!

📱 Download CBS 6 News App
The app features breaking news alerts, live video, weather radar, traffic incidents, closings and delays and more.