Officer’s Widow Sues Dallas to Keep Death Video Private

DALLAS (CN) – The widow of a Dallas police officer killed in an ambush at a peaceful protest against police brutality last year sued the city on Tuesday to block the release of video of his final moments and prevent “grave harm” to her children.

Katrina Ahrens sued Dallas and Dallas County in Federal Court on privacy and constitutional claims. Her husband, Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, was among the five police officers killed on July 7 when a gunman opened fire near El Centro College on the west side of downtown Dallas. Nine other officers and two civilians were injured.

Ahrens says the defendants refused her request to not disclose graphic video of the final moments of her husband’s life, to which she was granted access.

“She viewed, for instance, detailed digital video footage of her husband being shot roughly thirteen times in various parts of his body, suffering through the slow process of dying, and then speaking his last words before her eyes,” the 12-page complaint states.

“As any reasonable person would expect, viewing these records was extremely painful and upsetting, gut wrenching, and devastating to her. Even watching the videos in seclusion caused her severe mental and emotional distress.”

Ahrens says her young children will almost certainly be exposed to the upsetting material if it is released: One of her children already is searching his father’s name online for images and articles.

She says media outlets have asked the defendants for information that “specifically relates to the fatal injuries, wounds, and death” of her husband, including “sensitive death records” evidence the city has shared with county attorneys.

“The city has stated it has not, to its knowledge, released any information related to its criminal investigation of the July 7 attack, but that it intends to produce materials including sensitive death records once its investigation is closed,” the complaint states.

Ahrens says she sued after the city refused her request to not release the information, citing privacy rights under the U.S. Constitution, the Texas Constitution, common law, and the Texas Public Information Act.

She also claims that the city intercepted, seized and read mail that was sent to her after her husband’s death, without her consent. She says this violates her rights under the Fourth Amendment, Texas Constitution and common law. In one case, the city gave her a letter in February from a local community center inviting her to an awards gala and Martin Luther King Jr. parade — in January.

“But because the plaintiff received the letter two months after it was dated, she was – by no fault of her own – unaware of the gala honoring her late husband,” the complaint states. “This, of course, reflects negatively on plaintiff, who would have gladly attended the gala and parade had she been aware.”

Ahrens said that some mail was diverted to the office of former Police Chief David Brown.

“Plaintiff has been told mail sometimes sat unattended in his office for so long that charitably donated checks could no longer be cashed due to the passage of time,” the complaint states.

Ahrens is represented by Casey Griffith with Griffith Bates in Dallas.

Police said the suspect, Micah X. Johnson, was killed when a bomb disposal squad detonated explosives near him several hours after the ambush. Johnson served in the Army Reserve in Afghanistan and allegedly targeted white police officers in retaliation for several high-profile shootings of unarmed black men.

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