Saturday, September 30, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, September 30, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Court Shines a Light on Mass-Shooting Footage

SEATTLE (CN) - Surveillance footage of June 2014 shooting at Seattle Pacific University that killed one and wounded two must be released to the media, the Washington State Court of Appeals ruled.

Monday's ruling upholds a superior court decision that said the videos were public record and must be disclosed under Washington's public-records laws.

Campus security cameras captured part of the June 2014 shooting that brought a first-degree murder charge against Aaron Ybarra.

Ybarra has pleaded not guilty and is currently in jail awaiting trial.

After the university turned over the tapes to the Seattle Police Department during the investigation, several news organizations and a private citizen requested copies under the Public Records Act.

Though officials agreed to release the tapes with the faces of students and victims shaded to protect their identities, some students in the videos and the university objected.

They filed suit anonymously to block the release.

The King County Superior Court sided with the media, however, and a three-judge appellate affirmed this week.

"The university's burden was to show that public disclosure of the videos would

have a substantial likelihood of threatening public safety," Judge Michael Trickey wrote for a three-judge panel. "It failed to meet this burden. The university's argument that disclosure of the videos could enable future individuals to successfully evade its surveillance security system is altogether speculative. The same is true of the university's argument regarding 'copycat' crimes. In view of this, we conclude that the trial court did not err when it declined to apply the 'security' exemption."

The students had also argued unsuccessfully that disclosing the videos would have a "chilling effect," making future victims and witnesses less willing to come forward was not enough to exempt disclosure.

Categories / Uncategorized

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.