Judge denies request for release of body camera video of Locust police-involved shooting

Published 4:50 pm Tuesday, July 12, 2022

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The following is part of a press release provided by Locust Police Department:

A judge has denied a request for the release of body camera video concerning a police shooting in Locust.

A hearing was held in Stanly County Superior Court on Tuesday in reference to a petition by WSOC-Charlotte for the release of body camera video of the Locust Police Department officer involved shooting that occurred on May 31. As part of the order for the hearing, presiding Judge Wallace was provided the requested video as well as acquired neighborhood security camera video of the incident for her review on July 11. As stated during the hearing, Wallace did review at least the requested body camera video.

Representatives of WSOC-Charlotte were present to provide their reasons for the requested release, and from the Locust Police Department Chief Jeff Shew and Assistant Chief Kevin O’Connor were present with city counsel to provide the Locust Police Department’s position.

Shew was allowed in open court to provide a statement on the department’s position, which is listed below. This statement includes a detailed account of what occurred during the incident that is depicted on video, an account that Shew stated he would testify under oath to as he has viewed the involved video multiple times. Following the hearing, which included positions presented by WSOC-Charlotte, the Locust Police Department and the Stanly County District Attorney’s Office, Wallace ordered that the video not be released.

Chief Shew’s Statement To The Court

Good morning your honor,

Regarding WSOC’s request for the release of the body camera video depicting a Locust Police Department officer involved shooting on May 31, 2022, as head of the agency I find myself on both sides of the argument.
On one side you have a request that may be desired or at least claimed to be for agency transparency and letting the public see the truth of what occurred involving our officer and Mr. Michael Angelo Gales. This aspect I am generally in favor of.
What follows I would testify to under oath as I have viewed the video multiple times. The reality of what occurred and is clearly shown on both our officer’s body camera video and a neighborhood resident’s security camera video that we acquired during investigation is our officer attempting to make a valid traffic stop of a vehicle driven by Mr. Gales after observing multiple traffic violations including careless and reckless driving, passing in a no passing zone, and speeding in excess of 100 miles per hour. This occurred while our officer
pursued him with blue lights activated and later in the short pursuit their siren activated as well.

Once Mr. Gales finally stopped in the middle of a neighborhood street, he immediately approached our officer despite commands to stay in his vehicle. Mr. Gales is shown grabbing and swiping at our officer while telling our officer he would kill them. The video shows Mr. Gales to be the aggressor in a physical confrontation in this entire sequence as our officer attempted in defense to deploy their taser which was mostly ineffective before Gales again grabbed and swung at our officer. Mr. Gales then ran back toward his vehicle saying “Watch this” twice before retrieving a handgun from his vehicle. Our officer recognized what Gales was doing and chose to move away from residences for the occupant’s safety, and to create distance from Gales despite this meaning they had no cover standing in the middle of the street. Gales emerged from around the officer’s patrol vehicle saying, “Where you at?” and despite our officer’s pleading tone Gales then stated twice, “We’re going to shoot it out.” Gales pointed his handgun at our officer then even lowered it to assure a laser aiming device was activated. Gales then again pointed it at our officer and fired his handgun first then fired multiple times (believed to be seven) miraculously missing our officer each time. Our officer was forced to return fire with zero cover in the middle of the street striking Mr. Gales multiple times who then fell to the ground and our officer immediately ceased fire.

The video then shows our officer continuing to cover Mr. Gales to assure the threat had ended, with other Locust officers arriving shortly after. When it’s confirmed the threat was ended, aid was swiftly rendered to Mr. Gales by responding Locust officers which contributed to him being transported to a medical center while still alive. In summary, it was a clear overwhelmingly justified and unavoidable use of lethal force which was ruled as such by the Stanly County District Attorney’s Office. The use of force also adhered to all Locust Police Department policy.

My objection to its release falls more on the principle of the request and the psychological effects for all involved. First, in my opinion there is no need for “seeking the truth” with the release of this video as in one of WSOC’s own reports on the incident they referenced eyewitness neighbors informing them of what occurred and what they witnessed firsthand. “Neighbors who say they saw what happened said the driver eventually stopped in front of his own home and started shoving a police officer. They say the officer used a Taser on the
man, who then pulled out a gun from his car and started firing” is what the actual report said. This is not a detailed account of all that occurred but is certainly an accurate depiction. It may also not delve into what led up to the incident however regardless of your ideological views there is and hopefully never will be an authorization or justification for shoving a police officer or pulling out a gun and firing at them.

My objection involves the family of Mr. Gales that may remember and want to continue to remember him differently than the man seen in this video attempting to murder a law enforcement officer just doing their duty the correct and ethical way.

And finally, my objection is the Locust officer involved having to relive a moment in their career that every law enforcement officer hopes they will never have to do despite what some in the media and others would say. Our officer was forced to shoot and ultimately kill another human being and they will forever be affected by that.

The release of this video will ultimately whether they try to avoid it or not subject the officer to reliving that horrific experience, or at minimum having others around them question and bring up the incident in conversation. The release of this video will also subject our officer to extremely unfair criticism from some that will despite the overwhelming video evidence still somehow try to claim it was unjustified. They will be
subjected to “Monday morning quarterbacks,” “keyboard warriors” and “online trolls” that even if they have no idea what it’s like to do the job of a law enforcement officer or at the least were not involved in this specific incident will second guess or criticize our officer’s decision making. All of these aspects will further impede and affect the recovery of the officer involved who is still to this day having to come to grips with what they were forced to do. These are my respectful objections to public release.

Lastly, if your honor however does see fit for the release of this video, we do respectfully request that a segment within the requested 20 minutes following the shooting where the involved officer provides their personal phone number be redacted or “beeped out” for the officer’s privacy.

In summary, we will certainly respect the ruling of your honor in this matter. The bottom line however is this incident involved a Locust officer who has an impeccable record with our department and has received multiple awards and commendations for their community service being forced to do what no officer ever wants to do.

And we have Mr. Gales, that although we will never know all that was going on in his head that resulted in him attempting to murder a police officer, he is now deceased with his family and friends having to face that reality and loss. There will be no winners with the release of this video, only the truth and reality of a justified officer involved shooting and the tragedy for all involved.