WASHINGTON — Body cam footage from three separate police-involved deaths in the District was released Friday as part of a requirement from the D.C. Council's latest emergency police bill requiring fatal incidents to be released to the public within five days.
The footage shows the deaths of Marqueese Alston, D'Quan Young and Jeffrey Price. The families of four other victims -- Devonne Harris, Timothy Williams, Isabelle Duval and Eric Carter -- have asked that footage not be released.
In a briefing Friday on the decision to release the videos, and on D.C.'s current public safety response, Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham discussed why the department waited to distribute the footage. Bowser said she waited "based on recommendations and based on how we thought public justice would be served."
But the D.C.Council's recent passage of the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Second Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 mandated that the footage from the body cams be released within five days.
DC Police policy allows for certain people to view body cam footage, including the subject of the recording and their parent or legal guardian. Others, including members of the media, are able to file Freedom of Information Act requests for such footage, but those requests may be denied or delayed.
Body camera footage previously obtained by WUSA9 has shown DC Police officers failing to follow department protocols, including during a September 2017 stop and frisk that resulted in a civil rights lawsuit against the department. MPD eventually settled that suit.
The original language from Councilman Charles Allen, who spearheaded the revised emergency bill, would have required DC Police to disclose the body cam footage and the names of associated officers on July 1.
The new legislation pushed that date back and allowed family and next-of-kin of those killed by police the option to block the footage from being released to the public.
The videos, which have been released to MPD's website, are graphic.
The release of the footage comes just over a month after the family of Marqueese Alston, one of the three victims in the released bodycam footage, filed a $100 million dollar wrongful death suit against the District and DC Police.
"Remember that these cameras show people's loved ones," Bowser warned.
Deputy Mayor Kevin Donahue echoed Bowser's statement, saying the released videos "resolve some questions people have and they don’t resolve others."
"It's hard to watch," Bowser said. "Sometimes I think people think the body cam footage will tell the whole story, and it doesn't... frequently, people are left still wanting to know more."
She urged the public to understand the footage released by the department doesn't necessarily depict the whole story of each individual case, and shows "the difficult positions our officers face that the difficult experiences following somebody's death."
"I think people will think it's like watching a TV show with all clear footage coming from different angles, but it's a camera on an officer's chest that sometimes doesn't show anything," Bowser said. "Or it shows something after the fact... but at the end, somebody died."
The lawyer for the Alston family, Zina Makar, said they had not given the city consent to release the footage.
“This is just another PR stunt," Marqueese Alston's mom, Kenithia Alston, said. "I’ve been asking for the full and raw footage for the past two years, so I could understand the truth about what happened to my son. Instead, I’ve been forced to see the moments of my son’s death for a second time with many, many unanswered questions.”
The uncle of Jeffrey Price, who was killed after his illegal ATV collided with a police cruiser in May 2018, said he did not want the footage to be released, either.
WUSA 9 spoke with the Deputy Mayor, who said they had conversed with the Price family's lawyer this morning before releasing the footage. The lawyer expressed a desire for the family to see the video before it was released. But Donahue said consent was assumed unless they had received a written or verbal objection.
Councilmember Trayon White, who was one of the major advocates for the emergency legislation, knew Marqueese Alston personally. He said he has experienced police brutality in DC, so he takes these incidents personally.
“We are headed in the right direction," Councilmember White said. "We’re not where we need to be, but I’m proud as a city that we’re taking efforts to display transparency.”
DC Police's website says that more videos will be coming out at a later date.