A Harford County choose on Thursday ordered Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler to show over all proof in a deadly taking pictures involving deputies.
In a precedent-setting case, Harford County Circuit Court Judge Yolinda Curtin decided the Maryland Attorney General’s Office has unique authority to research deadly police encounters and native authorities should cooperate with the unbiased investigation.
A brand new state legislation that took impact in October takes away legislation enforcement’s means to research themselves when drive results in a civilian dying. The choose reviewed the legislative historical past of the brand new legislation, discovering clear intent that lawmakers need an unbiased investigation of deadly police encounters and native authorities should comply.
In a grievance filed Monday, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh alleged Gahler blocked investigators with the legal professional common’s Independent Investigations Division from gathering proof wanted to interact in an unbiased evaluation of the incident.
The choose on Thursday ordered the sheriff to right away hand over all of the proof. She needs testing achieved by the state police lab.
Frosh stated outdoors the courthouse that expects to obtain proof, together with recordings, instantly. The momentary restraining order expires at 11:59 p.m. on April 29.
“We are very pleased with the court’s decision. She ruled in our favor. We were deeply concerned that Sheriff Gahler’s actions were interfering with our investigation,” Frosh stated outdoors the courthouse after the ruling. “I hope this will put to rest any contests in the future over what obligations we have to do our independent investigations and how we do them.”
The sheriff stated he absolutely cooperated with state investigators.
“Out of the dictionary, the word, I understand, requires two parties to work together to an end. The word ‘cooperation’ is now one-sided. The word ‘cooperation’ means, ‘Whatever the attorney general says.’ It means one side,” Gahler stated outdoors the courthouse after the ruling.
Attorneys for the sheriff argued a lab in Frederick will get outcomes sooner and that transferring the proof will break the chain of custody and trigger irreparable hurt to the case. The legal professional common stated the Frederick lab is just not accredited.
“The judge pointed out it is a one-way obligation. It’s for them to cooperate with our investigation, not ours to cooperate with theirs,” Frosh stated.
An replace to the legislation that handed this session takes impact in July that additional clarifies that the legal professional common’s workplace is the first investigating company in police-involved deaths.
Gahler stated he’ll adjust to the ruling. There was no choice but on whether or not the sheriff will file an attraction.
The sheriff’s workplace launched a press release round 4:30 p.m. Thursday, saying: “Earlier today, a decision was rendered in Harford County Circuit Court in favor of the attorney general’s request to have all evidence collected by the Harford County Sheriff’s Office in response to the deputy-involved taking pictures on April 23, 2022, in Forest Hill turned over to the Maryland Office of the Attorney General (OAG) Independent Investigations Unit (IIU).
“Sheriff Gahler has the utmost respect for the authorized course of and the rule of legislation and intends to completely adjust to the choose’s order because it pertains to the switch of all proof collected by Harford County Sheriff’s Office personnel throughout the subsequent 24 hours.
“Sheriff Gahler has not questioned the obligation assigned by Maryland’s Legislature to the OAG to finish an unbiased investigation and, the truth is, testified in help of the unique invoice that established the IIU throughout the OAG. He has additionally been clear (and it’s the case) that the Harford County Sheriff’s Office will cooperate with the OAG IIU, as additionally required by legislation, however to not the extent that ‘cooperation’ was outdoors the bounds of the legislation. It is actually unlucky that the legal professional common wouldn’t take into account our issues outlined in quite a few letters over the previous eight months, nicely earlier than the occasions of April 23, 2022.
“As the sheriff has stated for the reason that starting of this investigation, our residents and the household of John Fauver deserve a full and clear investigation of all occasions that occurred that tragic day. Regrettably, there are nonetheless many nuances of how these investigations ought to unfold and at this time’s ruling, sadly, didn’t tackle a lot of them. It is Sheriff Gahler’s honest hope that he and Mr. Frosh can resolve a few of the excellent points beforehand outlined or that the Legislature will return and amend the legislation to eradicate the paradox within the present legislation.
“‘I do not take my duty to the citizens of Harford County lightly. You have elected me to be your law enforcement leader and I carry that responsibility with me every day in every decision I make. I thank you for your patience and support as we move to bring this investigation of the deputy-involved shooting to a close,’ Gahler said.”
A brand new legislation mandating unbiased investigations of deadly police-involved shootings is being challenged for the primary time.
IID investigators had been known as Saturday afternoon after two Harford County sheriff’s deputies fatally shot 53-year-old John Raymond Fauver, who authorities stated was suicidal and believed to be armed with an extended gun.
The sheriff allowed the AG’s investigators to watch, however not acquire proof.
“They had complete access to it, unfettered access since the initial incident,” Gahler stated outdoors the courthouse after the ruling.
“We need to be able to talk with the witnesses. We need to be able to view the videos,” Frosh stated outdoors the courthouse after the ruling.
The two sides argued their instances Thursday morning earlier than Curtin.
The choose requested, if she grants the momentary restraining order, how quickly may the proof be turned over? Frosh stated he expects the timeframe to be a half day to 24 hours, to which the sheriff’s legal professionals agreed.
INTERPRETATION OF THE LAW
The choose stated the case boils all the way down to a elementary distinction within the interpretation of the statute. The legal professional common stated the statute requires proof to be turned over and requires cooperation. The sheriff’s attorneys stated he has a constitutional obligation to research crimes in Harford County.
The sheriff’s attorneys stated there may be nothing within the state legislation that claims the sheriff cannot examine and that the legal professional common has an excessive interpretation of the statute, considering it permits IID to take over.
Frosh stated the sheriff’s actions are precisely what the brand new state legislation was designed to forestall.
Listen: WBAL’s Robert Lang spoke to Attorney General Brian Frosh who argued the case.
The sheriff’s attorneys stated the legal professional common “wants us to stand down. We are investigating a crime. You can’t split the crime scene.”
Frosh stated nobody has indicated there was one other incident to research associated to the police taking pictures and that they’re targeted on that.
The sheriff’s attorneys informed the choose it isn’t within the public’s curiosity to increase the duties of the legal professional common’s workplace, saying his protocols haven’t got the authority of legislation.
EVIDENCE SOUGHT/CHAIN OF CUSTODY
The legal professional common is in search of police body-worn digicam video, civilian digicam video, entry to witnesses, police radio recordings, 911 calls and bodily proof to be despatched to the Maryland State Police crime lab.
Frosh stated there have been 12 to fifteen officers on the scene, all with physique cameras. He stated there have been additionally automobiles with dashcams and a minimum of three civilians recorded one thing on video.
Frosh stated he needs his investigators to make use of their very own computer systems to observe, analyze, sync and examine the video in gradual movement.
SHERIFF’S ATTORNEYS SAY IT’S A CHAIN-OF-COMMAND ISSUE
Frosh stated Gahler needs to oversee the unbiased investigation however that the sheriff “doesn’t get to dictate the terms of our investigation.”
The sheriff’s attorneys stated this case is just not about cooperation and transparency, it is in regards to the legal professional common wanting to regulate the sheriff, and he is asking the court docket to take the sheriff’s duties away.
THE COURT DOCUMENTS
| PDFs: Court paperwork filed by the legal professional common
| PDF: Correspondence between HCSO, AG’s workplace (offered by the HCSO)
| PDF: Letter from AG Frosh to Sheriff Gahler (dated April 26, 2022, offered by the AG)