A state investigation was called for this week by Rainsville Mayor Rodger Lingerfelt into the leak of police body camera footage on social media and other websites.
The footage is connected to a traffic stop conducted on June 15, 2020, of a 44-year-old Sylvania resident.
As previously reported by The Times-Journal, the traffic stop led to an outside agency's investigation and the arrest on a Harassment Warrant on June 16, 2020.
According to an article released Sunday by the Southern Torch, the media group requested the officer’s body camera footage. However, it was denied. Referencing state law, the city’s attorney said the video would not be released until the investigation was complete and the driver’s court case complete.
Earlier this week, the Southern Torch posted the leaked body camera footage on its website and social media platforms.
Accusations were made of Rainsville Police Department leaking the footage.
In response, Lingerfelt hired a private investigator and called on the Alabama State Bureau of Investigation to determine where the leak came from.
In his investigation on Monday, the private investigator conducted an intensive search through the city’s computer system. Lingerfelt said according to the investigator's findings, there were only two copies made by them.
“One went to the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office and one went to the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office,” said Lingerfelt. He said that was the only evidence that left their system.
Lingerfelt said a copy was sent to the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office after the case was turned over to them for further investigation in June. This was due to the involvement of threats made to a Rainsville Police Officer.
He said the city of Rainsville and its officers followed procedures and didn’t do anything wrong. “That's not the way we do business,” said Lingerfelt.
Rainsville Police Chief Kevin Smith said the leaked footage could put unfair bias either for or against the defendant.
“I appreciate the mayor's wisdom and support in calling in an outside investigator,” he said.
Lingerfelt said the Alabama State Bureau of Investigations would further investigate the matter upon their visit to Rainsville.
In response to inquiries from the media about video footage recently provided to Southern Torch, Chief Deputy District Attorney Bob Johnston shared the following public statement:
“Our office received a digital copy of ‘body cam’ footage in connection to the pending harassment case against Jerry Jason McKee. That DVD has been in the constant care, custody and control of the assigned prosecutor. It is the policy of our office to prevent the disclosure of evidence prior to trial unless it is shared with the victim, law enforcement, the defense attorney or the court. In this instance- the DVD has been shared with only the defense attorney.”
The statement comes in response to footage connected to a traffic stop conducted on June 15, 2020, of McKee, a 44-year-old Sylvania resident. As previously reported by The Times-Journal, the traffic stop led to an outside agency's investigation and the arrest on a Harassment Warrant on June 16, 2020.