Antioch Police won’t release body, dash cam videos of October incident at councilwoman’s home, yet

Antioch District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker.

Claim they’re privileged and “exempt from disclosure at this time”; DA says they’re evidence

Torres-Walker surprised by misdemeanor charge for interfering with police, denies bullet casings found on her property

“There were multiple shell casings that were located in the street directly in front of Councilwoman Torres-Walker’s residence.” APD Captain Schnitzius

By Allen Payton

In response to a Public Records Act (PRA) request for copies of the police officer body and vehicle dash cam videos of the October 2, 2021 incident at Antioch District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker’s home, Interim Antioch Police Chief Tony Morefield said his department won’t release them because at this time as they are privileged. In addition, Captain Trevor Schnitzius said the Contra Costa DA’s office says the reason is they are evidence. (See related article)

The request was made on Oct. 4, 2021 in an email to the then-acting chief and City Attorney Thomas Lloyd Smith. It was sent, again on Oct. 6 and included City Manager Ron Bernal asking, “When will a press release be issued about this very serious incident? Also, how soon can the police body and dash cam videos be released? I know it’s new technology for our city, but how quickly can that happen?”

In response to that email that same day, Bernal wrote, “Thanks for the info Tony. I have a call into Rolando to discuss this and a couple of other things. I expect to have something to discuss by our 4:00 pm meeting today,” referring to the City’s public information officer, Rolando Bonilla.

But no press release was issued by the City, at that time, nor since.

Then on Oct. 10, APD Police Records Supervisor Lynn Dansie said the incident was still under investigation and the videos would not be released but, provided some details of what occurred, as previously reported. (See related article)

“The Antioch Police Department is in receipt of your recent Public Records Act request for body camera footage and dash camera footage of a recent incident that resulted in case #21-8418, involving a local Councilwoman. Because this is an active investigation and still considered to be an open case, the records that may be responsive to your request are being denied for release under GC 6254(f), GC 6254(k) and GC 6255(a), at this time,” she wrote.”

“A press release is not planned to be released,” Dansie continued. “As described in GC 6254(f)(2), the following details regarding the call, are available. Officers responded to the 500 block of Gary Ave on October 3, 2021 at 0027 hrs, for a report of a loud party and shots heard, in the area.  There were no victims, no injuries, and no property loss determined at the time of officers [sic] arrival.  As mentioned, this is an open and continuing investigation at this time.”

In a follow up email sent Monday, Nov. 8, asking when the body and dash cam videos will be available, if the investigation has been completed and if not, when expected it to be.

DA Charges Torres-Walker for Interfering with Police

Finally, on Tuesday, Nov. 9, another email was sent to Morefield asking, again for the videos. Referring to an East County Today news report about Torres-Walker being charged by the Contra Costa DA with a misdemeanor for her actions during the incident, the interim chief was asked, “Now that it’s out, will you please send out a press release about it to the rest of the media and release the dash and body cam footage to all of us?”

Denial Letter Received Nov. 9

In a letter to the Herald received Nov. 9, Morefield wrote, “The City…has concluded that” the videos “are statutorily exempt from disclosure at this time.” His letter then cited several state government codes supporting the decision.

Torres-Walker Surprised by Charge, Denies Bullet Casings on Her Property

On Nov. 10 KTVU FOX2 reported Councilwoman Torres-Walker said she was surprised to be charged by the District Attorney’s office and denied there were any bullet shell casings on her property.

Additional Questions for Antioch Police

Questions were then sent to Morefield about his decision asking, “why are the dash and body cam videos of the incident at Councilwoman Torres-Walker’s home privileged? I don’t understand and most likely neither will the public. Won’t you be able to say that about all of the dash and body cam videos the department acquires of all incidents? If not, what makes this one special? Because it involves a councilwoman? Or because she was only charged with a misdemeanor?

In addition, he was asked, “when will a press release about what occurred that night and the charges against her be sent? Don’t you agree the public has a right to know what their elected officials do that is illegal, especially when it involves gunshots at their house?”

Regarding the videos being statutorily exempt from disclosure at this time, Morefield was asked why and if it’s because the prosecution of Councilwoman Torres-Walker is underway. He was also asked if it also means the videos will eventually be released, possibly once the prosecution is completed.

APD Responds: Bullet Casings Located Street in Front of Torres-Walker’s Home; DA: Video is Evidence

In an email response on Nov. 22, Captain Trevor Schnitzius wrote, “With respect to Councilwoman Torres-Walker, we understand PRA and the balancing test of public interest vs. right to privacy as well as other provisions within PRA.  In this instance, we have reached out to Simon O’Connell from the CCC DA’s office regarding yours and others request.  It has been our position, and also the position of the CCC District Attorney’s Office that this particular video is and continues to be evidence.  Upon our inquiry with the DA’s office, they also advised our agency the release of this video prior to a trial could be detrimental to the prosecution of the pending criminal case.  Regarding your inquiry as to whether or not Councilwoman Torres-Walker was arrested/cited, any information with regards to this cannot be released.  After a period of 30 days any arrest information becomes local criminal history and is not subject to release pursuant to PC 1330.  This advisement is not to be construed as to indicate an arrest was made/not made in this particular case.”

In addition, Schnitzius wrote, “The one bit of information I can provide (public interest outweighs privacy) is in reference to your inquiry regarding shell casings.  There were multiple shell casings that were located in the street directly in front of Councilwoman Torres-Walker’s residence.”

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