Police video of April 29 shootout in Charlotte will not be made public, judge rules

A judge on Thursday denied numerous news outlets’ requests for body camera footage from the April 29 shooting in east Charlotte that left four law enforcement officers dead.

Judge David Strickland of Mecklenburg County Superior Court said in a draft order that public viewing of the footage would “harm the reputation or jeopardize the safety of a person,” among other factors in his decision to deny release of the police videos.

He wrote that the media had not established a compelling public interest “as the court is not aware of any conduct by a public official that is at issue.”

“Mr. Hughes was the bad actor in this situation and no one is questioning the actions of law enforcement,” Strickland wrote.

Terry Clark Hughes Jr. opened fire on U.S. Marshals Service task force members after officers arrived to try to arrest him on felony warrants that day.

“Widows have been receiving hate mail in their mailboxes,” Strickland wrote. “Messages that tell them their husband deserved to die and that they should rot in hell. The Court believes if the body camera footage is released for all to see, these families would receive more hate mail.”

The judge posed a question: What happens to a 12-year-old who Googles his dead father’s name, and sees his assassination on YouTube?

“The Court doesn’t know the answer to that question but does believe it impacts the mental health of a child — even if it is years from now,” Strickland said. The order did not yet appear in online court records but was shared with attorneys.

The Charlotte Observer, ABC News, The New York Times, Spectrum News and The Assembly requested the April 29 footage in a June 6 petition filed by attorney Mike Tadych.

Before that, several local television news stations requested the footage in a separate petition.

Two widows of officers killed attended a hearing earlier this month to oppose the release. About 200 police officers also attended the hearing.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Johnny Jennings thanked Strickland for his decision in a post on social media.

“As I’ve said all along, there is no compelling public interest to release this footage,” the chief said. “On behalf of CMPD, I want to thank the judge for doing the right thing.”