Access to body camera footage showing the death of Dominique White by two Topeka police officers is restricted to his children, an attorney representing White’s family said in a statement Monday.
White’s four boys are ages 13, 10, 5 and 3.
City of Topeka officials are working with White’s family to get an executor in place who also would have access to the video, said city spokeswoman Molly Hadfield.
Attorney Gillian Cassell-Stiga said the city agreed to hold a private viewing of the footage with White’s parents on Nov. 8. However, officials changed their position, citing a Kansas law that allows only heirs and executors access to the video. According to Cassell-Stiga’s statement, should the children view the footage, they would have to be unaccompanied.
The change came after consultation with the police union, she said.
“In reversing its earlier position and refusing to allow Mr. White’s family to view the bodycam video, the City of Topeka has failed to adhere to the purpose of the law: allowing the family members of those slain to understand the circumstances of their loved one’s death,” Cassell-Stiga said.
Hadfield confirmed officials met with White’s family last week.
“City officials have been keeping in contact with Dominique White’s family and the attorneys representing them,” Hadfield said. “Under Kansas law, certain persons may request to view a body worn camera video prior to it being released to the public. These include the heir at law or an executor or administrator of Dominique White’s estate.
“We are working with the White family to allow viewing under these parameters in compliance with state law.”
According to Kansas statute 45-254, a person who is the subject of a recording, a parent or guardian if the subject is younger than 18 years old, the subject’s attorney, or an heir or executor can request to view the footage.
Body camera recordings are considered part of a criminal investigation. Under Kansas open records law, public agencies aren’t required to disclose criminal investigation records. However, they aren’t legally required to conceal them either, said Ron Keefover, president of the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government.
He said he doesn’t see any overriding reason the body camera footage shouldn’t be released in this situation.
White was killed Sept. 28 in Ripley Park as officers responded to a report of a disturbance involving gunshots. Topeka police officials said White was armed and a confrontation took place.
Records show he died as a result of gunshot wounds to the back. The Lawrence Police Department is investigating the shooting.
In the weeks following White’s death, his family and other supporters have called for the release of the officers’ names and the body camera footage.
“I cannot express the anguish we feel each day knowing that the officers who did this to our son continue to roam the street, and that we might come across them on any given day and simply not know,” said Theresa Wynne, White’s mother.