Family Of Police Shooting Victim Wants Video Released
Over the last two weeks, we've reported on what it takes to get CMPD to release police shooting video under a new state law. A judge heard from several parties before denying the request to release footage. WFAE which made the request, CMPD, the Mecklenburg District Attorney's office, and the lawyers of the police officers all argued in court. But we haven't heard yet from the family. We sat down with the grandmother of Rodney Rodriguez Smith.
Linda Woodard and her family celebrated Smith's birthday on November 2nd. He would've turned 19. They gathered at his grave
"Everybody just said a few words and let the balloons go," says Woodard.
She raised Smith. She says he was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, and ADHD. He had run-ins with the law too. She once even complained to police he threatened to burn down the house.
"He was a bluffer. He was a bully-type person. He wanted everything to go his way. But he had his own good ways and, you know, I spoiled him. I can admit that. So I guess that had a lot to do with it too," says Woodard.
That birthday commemoration marked five months since police officers Michael Bell and Garrett Tryon shot Smith on the night of June 2nd. Woodard knows her grandson a few minutes before that shot someone in the foot or ankle on a CATS bus, although she thinks that might've been an accident. He got off the bus. The account from CMPD is that officers stopped him on N. Tryon, saw he had a gun, he fired one shot, and the officers fired multiple ones.
She's seen a few still images from that night. But neither Woodard nor anyone else in her family has seen the video from the encounter, although the new state law allows CMPD to show it to them.
"I don't know if I can handle that or not. I just don't want my instincts to be right. I'm thinking that they shot him down. I'm thinking that he had the gun and it was the cell phone," says Woodard. "That's the reason I guess nobody called. It's just a funny instinct I got that something isn't right."
She wants the video released. Her skepticism of CMPD's account has grown, since it's been five months and the DA hasn't decided whether to charge the officers. Yet, they're back on the beat and CMPD Chief Kerr Putney has said the officers acted heroically.
Has your daughter or anyone else in your family wanted to see that video? Yeah. My husband said he wanted to see it. My son wants to see it. I think his momma wants to see it. Why is that? They want to see what happened.
They have questions too. Woodard says the assistant district attorney they met with last month offered to show them the body cam video, but said he'd call when it was ready.
"I've been waiting on them to call me to let me know, but so far nobody's called," says Woodard. "I'm trying to not keep calling them, trying to give them time to get everything together that they need to get together, whatever they're doing that's taking them so long. I've never been through nothing like this before."
Woodard is 59. Her granddaughter lives with her and her husband in the university area. I caught up with Woodard between her shifts. She works in the shipping department of Snyder's-Lance and in a hospital cafeteria. She didn't know WFAE had asked a court to release body and dash cam footage of her grandson's shooting.
That means that video would be really easy to access on the internet. Would you feel comfortable with that? Yeah. I'll ask you again...why? Because we need to know what really happened out there that night and why is it taking so long for them to let us know what went on out there that night.
Several new outlets picked up Smith's shooting for a couple days following the encounter. Then, everything went quiet until September and she watched the protests over Keith Scott's shooting spring up around her.
Did the Keith Scott shooting make you think any differently about this? Yes, I see how his case went so quickly and so much going on and ours got thrown up under the bridge. It got a lot of attention is what you're saying. But I didn't want that type of attention. That's why I didn't try to make no big issue of nothing. I don't like all that violence and all this protest. I wanted to do this quietly and peaceful and get it out of the way. I know it's never going to go away. But I didn't want it that way that they had theirs going. You thought about that right after the shooting? I could've went big with it like the rest of the people did, but that isn't me. But now you feel ignored? Yeah, I do. I start feeling ignored.
After I spoke with Woodard, her son called me and said he's now trying to see the video right away. If that request is denied, he'll have to go through the same legal process WFAE did. The only difference is he wouldn't have to pay legal fees, since he's a family member.