Release of University Shooting Video Blocked
SEATTLE (CN) - A King County Court commissioner blocked Seattle media from access to video surveillance showing the June 5 shooting at Seattle Pacific University that killed one student and injured two others.
The temporary restraining order will be reviewed later this month by a King County Court judge.
The university and 15 victims of and witnesses to the shooting sued news outlets, including the Seattle Times and all major Seattle television stations, King County and the City of Seattle to prevent the footage from being released under the Public Records Act.
On June 5, Aaron Ybarra allegedly entered Otto Miller Hall on the SPU campus and shot and killed one student and wounded two others before he was subdued by a campus monitor.
"The Otto Miller Hall surveillance video was produced to the Seattle Police Department to aid in the police's ongoing investigation. This video footage captures the most intensely private, personal and traumatic moments of John Does' and Jane Does' lives," the complaint states.
Ybarra has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Media members filed numerous Public Records Act requests to obtain surveillance footage of the shooting after it was entered into evidence by prosecutors.
The complaint states that records are exempt from the Public Records Act if "they are investigative records compiled by law enforcement, and protecting the information is essential to protect a person's right to privacy or to promote effective law enforcement." The plaintiffs say the video footage fills all of those requirements.
According to the complaint:
"(a) The surveillance video in question is only in defendants' possession because it was requested and produced to the Seattle Police Department as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
"(b) The surveillance video depicts one of the most traumatic, private moments of John Does' and Jane Does' lives, including the attack upon them and its aftermath. Releasing the video would unquestionably be highly offensive to a reasonable person.
"(c) There is also no legitimate public interest in releasing the surveillance. There is no dispute that Mr. Ybarra committed the shootings. He does not deny that he did it; rather he has pled not guilty by reason of insanity."
SPU also claims that releasing the footage would give mass shooters publicity and hinder law enforcement.
"Releasing the surveillance video would hinder law enforcement efforts by giving mass shooters attention, exposure, and notoriety. Likewise it will likely give future victims and witnesses pause before handing over evidence to law enforcement for fear that such evidence may wind up on the evening news or Youtube," according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs say that public viewing of the video would also compromise SPU's security measures.
The witnesses and victims in the footage say they are afraid of "copycat" criminals and don't want their identities disclosed.
"(a) Each victim shown in the surveillance video objected to disclosure.
"(b) Pixilation of the victims' faces is not sufficient to protect their identities. John Does and Jane Does can still be identified by their relative height, weight, dress, skin color, and other distinguishing characteristics. The only possible way to protect their identities, thereby decreasing the risk of a future attack, is to not release the video surveillance.
"(c) John Does and Jane Does have a significant fear of 'copycat' criminals. If their identities are released through this video, as well as the precise details of Mr. Ybarra's actions, the risk to John Does and Jane Does' safety will be even greater," according to the complaint.
The temporary restraining order granted by Commissioner Carlos Velategui will be reviewed by Judge Helen Halpert later in July.
The complaint was filed by Bradley Thoreson, Samuel Bull and Bryce Blum of Foster Pepper.