Deters: I won't release dashcam video from Sonny Kim shooting scene

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati police dashcam video at the scene of Officer Sonny Kim's death is now in the hands of Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters -- and if he has it his way, that's where it will stay.

"If the Supreme Court of Ohio says it is a public record — which I think would be horribly wrong — then we would have no choice (but to release it)," Deters said in an interview on 700 WLW Tuesday. "But until that happens or until a common pleas judge orders it released, we’re not going to release it.”

The prosecutor subpoenaed the City of Cincinnati for all copies of the June 19 dashcam video. The city handed it over Tuesday. Deters' spokeswoman Julie Wilson said the prosecutor's office would not release the video because Deters is "in the middle of an active grand jury investigation."

Deters said the Kim family's request to keep the video out of the public eye also made an impact on his decision not to release it.

"I'm (holding it) because of open records law, but I would be lying if I didn't tell you it wasn't out of sympathy for the Kim family," he told host Bill Cunningham on 700 WLW.

Kim, a 27-year veteran of Cincinnati’s police force, was lured to the corner of Whetsel Avenue and Roe Street in Madisonville the morning of June 19 by TrePierre Hummons, in what Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell called a case of “suicide by cop.” Hummons shot and killed Kim during the exchange.

A number of media outlets, including WCPO, have requested a copy of the video footage captured by a dash camera mounted on the police cruiser of the second officer to respond to the scene.

Editor's note: Our request has prompted several people to ask that we not publish or broadcast the video.

We’d like to explain why we have requested the video.

Police dashcam videos are generally considered public records in Ohio, unless they are part of an ongoing investigation. The shooting death of Sonny Kim is no longer under investigation, so it should be available for review by the public.

But legal technicalities aside, it’s important that we take seriously our role as a watchdog for the community. Our intention at this point is only to review the video. No decision has been made about broadcasting it or publishing it online.

Any decision on broadcast or publication would take into consideration several factors: the content of the video, whether it could be offensive to our audience, and most certainly the wishes of Sonny Kim’s family. His widowed wife, Jessica, has written city officials asking that they not release the video. We’d like to assure her and her family that any decision by the media would be made carefully.

Relations between the police and the communities they serve are under intense scrutiny today. If we did not request the video, which is a public record, we would not be fulfilling our obligation as a journalism organization.

The shooting death of Officer Kim was tragic for his family and for our entire community. But by learning as much as we can about the events that led to his senseless killing, maybe we can begin to understand ourselves better and help make our community a better, more peaceful place to live.

Officer Kim's widow and Hummons' father each sent requests to the Cincinnati Police Department asking the video not be released.

"I am strongly opposed to the idea of having this video available to the public. It is very sad that there are individuals who are taking this tragedy as if it is a spectating event that needs to be shared," Jessica Kim wrote in a letter to City Manager Harry Black, Mayor John Cranley and Blackwell. "I am certain that those of you who have witnessed the video are in full agreement with me that there is absolutely no value to the public in sharing this."

City Councilman Christopher Smitherman also weighed in on the issue, urging the city not to release Kim's dashcam video.

In light of the subpoena, Black said the city was legally obligated to release the video to Deters.

"This is a process we must follow, and we will continue to cooperate with the prosecutor on this investigation, which is in his hands," Black said.

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