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Groups Urge Early Release of Body Cam Video in Death of Sylville Smith

Some state groups are calling for the early release of Milwaukee Police body camera footage showing the final moments of Sylville Smith's life.

The groups including the ACLU of Wisconsin and "Wisconsin Jobs Now" warned in a joint press conference Thursday that some community members won't be able to move forward until that video is put out.

Representatives said authorities should first show the footage to Smith's family and then release it to the public.

Dameion Perkins, speaking on behalf of the Coalition for Justice, talked about the negative feeling created by withholding the footage. Perkins is the other brother of Dontre Hamilton who died in an Milwaukee Police officer involved shooting in April of 2014.

"They did the same to us too. They deframed an innocent man's character to turn around months later and have to fire an officer for wrongdoing. And I don't think that's fair to the community," Perkins said.

Chris Ahmuty, Executive Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, said he feels the investigation would not be affected by the release of the video.

"The mayor at the press conference said that he saw a still photo of the video. I don't know why he didn't have 25 seconds to look at the video. But he has a still photo from the video which showed the gun in Mr. Smith's hand," Ahmuty said.

"And I'll take his word at that. But without the sound, without knowing when the order to drop the gun was given, without knowing when the shots were fired - just having a gun in the hand doesn't tell the public what they need to know," Ahmuty said.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice, which is now in charge of the investigation, said in a statement that investigators are not prepared to release any of the video evidence at this time.

Perkins says the inaction doesn't build trust in people who are skeptical of police.

"If you say that [Smith's] done wrong then release the evidence that shows he was in wrongdoing. Just don't speak about it because that's not healing for them," Perkins said.

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said in a weekend press conference that the video is mostly silent because of an audio delay when switching on the body camera.
 

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