Grand jury subpoenas WDRB raw interview in police shooting - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Grand jury subpoenas WDRB raw interview in police shooting

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A Jefferson County grand jury subpoenaed WDRB News on Friday for raw video from a recent news story about a suspect in a police shooting.

Louisville Metro Police initially served a search warrant last week that would have allowed police to comb through the station's newsroom and access computers, notes and unpublished material gathered for a story about Dimitri Harris being accused of shooting Officer Brad Shouse. 

A WDRB attorney argued the search warrant was "clearly illegal" under a federal law meant to protect journalists' First Amendment rights.

Jefferson Circuit Court Judge McKay Chauvin defended his signing of the search warrant, saying it was the quickest way to ensure the station would not destroy or lose raw video from its interview.

The judge acknowledged, however, that the warrant was "drafted overbroadly" and dismissed it, telling police to instead issue a subpoena to WDRB. That would allow the station to present any arguments in court and a judge to hear both sides.

The subpoena requires WDRB to bring the raw video to the grand jury room at 514 W. Liberty Street on September 21.

WDRB will ask a judge to dismiss the subpoena, arguing it is a First Amendment violation to force the station to turn over materials gathered for a story, which could include confidential sources or information the station does not want to disclose.

“When you request records from a news organization, it involves First Amendment rights to gather and distribute news,” said Jon Fleischaker, an attorney representing WDRB.

Fleischaker also said police have not indicated why they want the raw video “other than they are curious.That is not adequate in my judgment.”

Police have said Harris shot at officers while leading them on a foot chase in June near Kemmons Drive between the Watterson Expressway and Goldsmith Lane, hitting Officer Shouse in the foot.

However, police never charged Harris and he said in an interview with WDRB last week that he didn’t have a gun and the officer instead inadvertently shot himself. The video of that interview is available online.

Harris spent two months in jail after the incident on a probation violation in a previous case. He was on home incarceration when WDRB talked with him. 

Police Chief Steve Conrad declined to comment Thursday when asked if Shouse was shot by a fleeing suspect or instead accidentally shot himself in the foot during the chase.

LMPD denied WDRB's request for police-worn camera footage of the incident under Kentucky's open records law, saying the shooting is under investigation.

However, LMPD typically releases body camera footage immediately in incidents in which officers have shot someone, despite those cases also being under investigation. 

Conrad said this is a different situation “where you don’t have the same level of, necessarily, community interest” as when police use deadly force.

Asked if police were incorrect in obtaining a search warrant, Conrad said the information WDRB has may be “critical” to the investigation and he didn’t “have a problem with that being done.”

“However, that being said, we do learn from every experience, and with that it looks like coming at it with a subpoena or a court order may be a better way to go,” Conrad said. “And based on the directions from a judge, that’s exactly what we are going to do.”

WDRB has agreed to preserve the raw video. 

The station was ordered to appear in court Tuesday afternoon to show why it should not be held in contempt for failing to comply with the search warrant. LMPD had chosen not to enforce the warrant, and the station had not complied with it.

"They need to get what they need to get," Chauvin said of police. "And you're not in the business of preventing that to which they are entitled."

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