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Today’s newsletter is a little later than usual because breaking news doesn’t care about deadlines. Thanks for your patience.
The Bowser administration released police footage related to the death of 20-year-old Karon Hylton after the public called for immediate release.
Everyone from Black Lives Matter DC to Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners called on Mayor Muriel Bowser and Police Chief Peter Newsham to release all footage related to Hylton’s death. Bowser released some body-worn camera footage because Hylton’s death is of “great public interest.” The mayor reserves the right to release BWC footage in these instances.
“The footage shows that the MPD car does not collide with Karon,” said Bowser during a press conference with police on Thursday. “That said, we are using the footage as part of an investigation that will decide if MPD policies were broken.”
According to an MPD press release, officers tried to stop Hylton for riding a Revel Electric Moped on the sidewalk without a helmet Oct. 23. A friend of Hylton that claims he was at the scene that day tells DCist police chased Hylton down the street, causing Hylton to crash with another car.
The big question is whether the four officers in the police vehicle pursued Hylton for a traffic violation, as that would go against MPD policy. If an MPD investigation finds it to be an unauthorized pursuit, officers could face termination. The United States Attorney’s Office for D.C. is reviewing the death and then it goes to MPD for an investigation.
“You will see from the video what we know and you can see for yourself,” said Bowser when asked if police footage shows officers chasing Hylton. Both Bowser and Newsham expressed their condolences to the Hylton family.
The BWC footage appears to show a pursuit, however officials are not confirming anything until an MPD investigation is completed. “We don’t know what we don’t know,” said Newsham. MPD has not spoken with the four officers involved. What the public knows so far appears to show a pursuit for a traffic citation: There were no reports of any crimes in the area during the time of the incident, nor was Hylton found with contraband, according to Newsham. A stop becomes a pursuit when police determine the individual that officers are trying to stop is not going to comply. The BWC footage shows police turning on emergency lights to get Hylton to pull over. Police shortly turn the lights off, but continue to follow Hylton.
The packaged BWC footage, posted on the MPD website, is from the vantage of the driver. The video appears to show that the body-worn camera is not activated until the officer leaves his car to respond to Hylton, who was just hit, meaning audio does not begin until the officers exit the vehicle. There is video of officers in the car as they follow Hylton but no sound. Generally speaking, officers should have activated the camera when they turned on their emergency lights for a stop, said Newsham. The officers may have violated policy, but an internal investigation will confirm.
“Intentional failure would be a very, very serious violation,” said Newsham. “We are not going to tolerate conducting interactions with the public and intentionally not turning on their body-worn camera.”
Additional video from the driver will be posted online, as well as BWC footage from the officer riding in the passenger seat. The Bowser administration is not posting BWC footage from the officers in the backseat.
Bowser also released the name of one officer involved in the incident who was driving: Terence Sutton. She declined to name the rest of the officers involved.
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