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City of Topeka, Kan., Trying to Bar Black Man’s Parents From Seeing Video of Fatal Shooting, Lawyers Say

George Frey/Getty Images
George Frey/Getty Images

The city of Topeka, Kan., is accused of trying to stop the parents of a black man who was fatally shot by police from looking at bodycam footage, family lawyers said Monday.


The city’s excuse? State law permits only his four children, whose ages range from 3 to 13, to see it, the city argued, according to the Associated Press.

Attorney Gillian Cassell-Stiga said that last week the city agreed to let the parents of 30-year-old Dominique White, who was shot and killed by police on Sept. 28 near an East Topeka Park, to see the footage taken from police body cameras.


However, the city later retracted the offer, claiming that a 2016 state law only allows his young children—who probably shouldn’t see graphic footage of their father dying—to view it.

“It is so entirely ridiculous,” Cassell-Stiga said. “The position the city has decided to take is absurd and practically untenable.”

The lawyer said that the family does not intend to have the children see their father’s last moments “anytime soon.” The grieving family also have more than a few questions about White’s death, claiming that they have received little information. No information about the officers involved in the shooting has been released.

Molly Hadfield, a spokesperson for the city, said that the attorneys for the family and Topeka are still going through talks but that the city’s stance is based on the text of the law.


“Certain persons may request to view a body worn camera video prior to it being released to the public,” Hadfield told AP in a statement.

Per the law, according to AP, the subjects of the footage or their attorneys can see it. The parents of a minor can also review it. If the individual in the footage was killed, then that person’s heirs or the administrators of his or her estate are permitted to review the footage.


That same law also handles the footage as a criminal-investigation record, meaning that law enforcement isn’t required to make it public without a court order.

Police departments in both Topeka and Lawrence, which is about 20 miles east of the city, declined to release the footage in response to AP’s open-records request. The Lawrence Police Department is handling the investigation of the shooting for Topeka police.


White was killed after police were called to the park following a report about gunshots. White had been released from prison just months prior after pleading guilty to a 2015 burglary charge and no contest to a 2016 charge of illegal gun possession.

Topeka police claim that he struggled with officers and reached for a gun in a pocket when he was shot at least once in the chest.


However, White’s death certificate listed “gunshot wounds of back” as the immediate cause of death. To add to the list of causes for concern, neither the Topeka nor the Lawrence police departments drew up an incident report until last week, after it was picked up in the news that none existed, according to AP.

“I cannot express the anguish we feel each day knowing that the officers who did this to our son continue to roam the street, and that we might come across them on any given day and simply not know,” White’s mother, Mary Theresa Wynne, said in a statement.


Read more at ABC News.

News Editor at The Root, animation nerd, soca junkie, yogi

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