MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — A Mecklenburg County judge ruled Friday the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department does not have to release body camera footage from the Jan. 3 rush hour pursuit that killed Brittany Webb and seriously injured Aaron Norward until the “final conclusion” of the criminal case.
WCNC Charlotte reporter Nate Morabito petitioned the court to release the video. He argued in a hearing last week the release "is necessary to advance a compelling public interest."
Superior Court Judge George Bell cited the ongoing second-degree murder case of Bryan Gabriel Franklin, Jr. as his reason for withholding its release right now.
“Since there is an ongoing criminal case, a premature release of the video may unfairly prejudice the defendant and potentially invade the province of the jury,” Judge Bell wrote. “The defendant is entitled to a fair trial and his constitutional rights outweigh any public interest as it was presented to the Court.”
As WCNC Charlotte previously reported, CMPD suspended two officers in the weeks after the Statesville Road crash. Court records and scanner traffic revealed the two officers attempted to stop Franklin for driving with a covered, but still visible license plate.
Records show the officers made "several separate attempts" to stop the driver before he sped up and drove into the wrong lane, at which point they "disengaged" for the last time.
According to court documents, officers said they lost sight of Franklin before he, driving into oncoming traffic, crashed into the car carrying Webb and Norward, but police radio broadcasts suggest at least one officer witnessed the wreck.
Citing personnel privacy laws, CMPD has refused to answer specific questions about the crash.
CMPD’s attorney said there are roughly 40 videos from the incident in question.
Department records analyzed by WCNC Charlotte show the number of CMPD pursuits has more than quadrupled over the last decade, from 22 in 2011 to 97 in 2021.
CMPD data shows roughly one out of every four pursuits have ended in crashes since 2010.
Mecklenburg County has struggled to overcome major case delays, in part due to the pandemic, which have postponed murder trials at length.
Webb's family, Norward and the driver of the car struck all supported the public release of the video.
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