Family left waiting for body cam footage after fatal police shooting
A Connecticut woman who waited more than a year for footage of New Britain police officers shooting her son in 2017 may not see how her husband was killed last weekend by Massachusetts authorities anytime soon.
While Connecticut’s 2019 police accountability laws now require video footage to be released within four days of a use-of-force incident, Massachusetts does not have the same requirements.
The Hampden County District Attorney’s Office on Monday identified the man as William Tisdol, 48, who was killed early Saturday by police in a shooting outside the MGM Springfield casino.
A spokesperson for Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni referred questions about when the videos will be released to a statement that was issued Saturday about the shooting.
The statement issued by James Leydon, a spokesman for Gulluni, said the DA will conduct a “thorough, fair and transparent” investigation that will conclude with the evidence and findings being presented to the public. But the statement gives no timeframe when the videos will be released.
According to Massachusetts Freedom of Information laws, the police can rely on an “ongoing investigation” exemption to withhold the videos from the public, said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, which identifies and monitors First Amendment issues in six New England states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Silverman was not aware of any Massachusetts guidelines that require police to release the videos before the investigation is complete. In Connecticut, officials, including the state’s inspector general who independently investigates incidents of police use of force, must release body or dash camera footage within 96 hours of an incident.
“Generally speaking, the investigatory exemption is one of the more abused exemptions in Massachusetts,” Silverman said.
Body-worn camera footage, public and private recording systems, witness statements, 911 calls and dispatch logs will be examined as part of the investigation, Leydon said.
“The investigation will rely on nationally recognized best practices for conducting an impartial and transparent investigation into what led to a police officer’s use of deadly force, resulting in a death,” Leydon said.
Tisdol’s wife, Dondi Morrell, said Massachusetts police notified her of his death, but said they would not answer her questions about what happened.
Leydon said the incident began around 2 a.m. Saturday when members of the Massachusetts State Police Gaming Unit and Springfield police received a report that a man was “acting aggressive” to others.