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After controversial arrest, judge denies WCNC's request seeking police bodycam video

Four witnesses told WCNC Charlotte the two officers who arrested Rohrer unnecessarily escalated the situation and roughed up Rohrer while placing him in handcuffs.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A North Carolina judge has denied a request by a media coalition led by WCNC Charlotte to release body camera video showing the October arrest of a Gastonia homeless veteran for panhandling. 

In the aftermath of the Oct. 13 arrest, four witnesses told WCNC Charlotte the two officers who arrested Joshua Rohrer unnecessarily escalated the situation and roughed up Rohrer while placing him in handcuffs. Rohrer's service dog, Sunshine Rae, allegedly bit an officer's boot prompting that officer to deploy a stun gun. 

In his ruling released Monday, Superior Court Judge Stephan Furtrell denied releasing the police video citing the following reasons:

  • The recording contains information that is otherwise confidential or exempt from disclosure or release under state or federal law.
  • Release would reveal information regarding a person that is of a highly sensitive personal nature.
  • Release may harm the reputation or jeopardize the safety of a person.
  • Release would create a series threat to the fair, impartial, and orderly administration of justice.
  • Confidentiality is necessary to protect either an active or inactive internal or criminal investigation or potential internal or criminal investigation.

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Rohrer is scheduled to stand trial for charges of panhandling and resisting arrest.

During a court appearance earlier this month, Gaston County district attorney Travis Page and Gastonia Police department's attorney Laura Burton said they opposed releasing the videos until after Rohrer's court proceedings.

Among their concerns, they questioned whether the "right to a fair trial" would be significantly diminished if the videos were released.

WCNC's attorney, Jonathan Buchan, argued given the attention and protests following Rohrer's arrest, there's a "compelling public interest" in releasing the videos.

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The petition said releasing the recordings wouldn't jeopardize Rohrer’s right to a fair trial. Rohrer and his attorney support the petition.

"I think it's crucial to let everyone see the travesty that was committed that day," Rohrer said.

Both Rohrer's mother and his Veterans Affairs (VA) advocate, David Dowell, told WCNC Charlotte that Rohrer is an Army veteran who is battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after serving overseas. 

The judge made the decision after reviewing all 105 minutes of body camera video.

RELATED: 'Access to justice' | NC law requires court order to release bodycam footage. Lawmakers are hoping to change that.

 A law in North Carolina, signed in 2016 by then-Governor Pat McCrory, prohibits law enforcement from releasing body camera footage without a judge’s consent.  The law went into effect one week after the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, under intense pressure from the community, released footage of the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott.

Contact Brandon Golder at bgoldner@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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