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Family has not seen body-worn camera footage

Friday, May 10, 2024

The death of Malachi Williams on April 11 continues to be at the top of mind for many in the community. The public comments at the regularly scheduled San Marcos City Council meeting Tuesday focused on the release of the officer's name who shot Williams as well as the body-worn camera footage. In a statement released April 22, San Marcos Police Chief Stan Standridge cited Texas Government Code 552 and the pending investigation into the incident as the reason that SMPD will not yet be releasing the body worn camera footage of the incident. Floyd Miller, Williams’ great uncle, spoke at a vigil held for Williams on April 25 and said that under Texas Government Code Sec. 552.108, video evidence of the incident that resulted in the death of the individual as well as the medical examiner’s report could be viewed by a family member. The city then released a statement on April 29 that said “the San Marcos Police Department is working with the District Attorney's office to schedule a time that works best for the family to view the video.” Public comments made by members of Williams’ family at Tuesday’s meeting made it clear that had not yet occurred.

Wayne Miller, Williams’ grandfather, implored the council to consider that what happened to his grandson could happen to one of their loved ones also.

“What would you want to know? What would you want to see?” Miller said, adding that when he spoke at the work session at 3 p.m. on Tuesday he met Standridge. “He will tell you that he has invited my daughter and my children to come and view the body tape, but … his administrator Tammy [Strakos, Administrative Coordinator], she writes me. She said ‘as I promised. I am sending the answer to your questions regarding the updates related to the autopsy, inclusion of the video footage from H-E-B and convenient store and other officer body-cam footage available. I will be in touch with you as soon as I have details to share.’ This was sent to me on April 29. I have not heard any updates.”

The city of San Marcos issued this statement on May 8, “the San Marcos Police Department is still actively working with the District Attorney's office to schedule a time that works best for the family to view the video footage. Please be advised that the district attorney's office is the main point of contact for the family. The DA is also responsible for scheduling time to review body-worn camera footage with the Malachi Williams family.”

Hays County District Attorney Kelly Higgins said that his office is working with the family’s counsel to arrange a viewing.

“Negotiations there involve the rules regarding display of video evidence in ongoing investigations,” Higgins said. “Briefly, the video can only be shown for law enforcement purposes, and any showing outside that purpose would trigger a public release of the video. It might not be immediately apparent, but release to the public would seriously impact the integrity of the investigation, and we will not subvert the outcome of the investigation. Ultimately, justice requires that we tread very carefully in sharing the video while the investigation is still active. We fully intend to satisfy both the family and the interest of justice in our handling of the case.”

Shanta Miller, Williams’ mother, said she doesn’t think an officer “under investigation should be back on the streets,” and that she only wants answers.

While Standridge referenced the state's government code when discussing the timeline for the public release of body camera footage, some Texas cities have different policies.

According to a report on — Overview of Bexar County Body Worn Camera Policy and Release of Critical Incident Footage, the timeframe for critical incident footage release for several Texas law enforcement agencies is listed: 60 calendar day policy for The San Antonio Police Department, 30 calendar day policy for Houston Police Department, 10 business day policy for Austin Police Department and 72 hours for Dallas Police Department.

The San Marcos City Council met in Executive Session on April 30 to “receive legal advice regarding the policy governing recordings from body worn cameras,” but have the only public discussion of the topic to date occurred during the question and answer section at the end of Tuesday's council meeting.

Maxfield Baker, a former member of the San Marcos city council, asked whether or not any of the council members have considered forgoing the executive privilege for what was discussed in Executive Session regarding William’s case. He also asked if council would be willing to direct the city manager to demand that Standridge meet the demands of the community by releasing the bodyworn camera footage and the name of the officer that shot Williams.

“Just to remind you council members, you all can reply individually. Your lawyer is designed to protect the city’s assets, not to pursue justice, so it is up to you to decide how you would like to answer my first question about forgoing the executive privilege. If you have asked about that in executive session, you are more than welcome to state that you have asked that in executive session and even identify the colleagues that have chosen not to move forward with that. Again the ball is in your court with a lot of these things,” Baker said. “So again, are any of you willing to direct the city manager to have the chief meet the demands of the community?”

City of San Marcos Attorney Samuel Aguirre said that the city council is not obligated to answer one-by-one any question that is asked and provided guidance for how to answer.

“You can provide factual information. You can direct things to staff to follow up, or if you’re not prepared to answer a question that’s a major policy type of question, you’re not … going to go to Q&A jail under our ordinance,” Aguirre said. “It’s up to council how you would like to answer.”

San Marcos City Council Member Alyssa Garza addressed what she could of Baker’s question saying that she’s always been uncomfortable with executive sessions.

“If it were up to me we would have conversations about police violence in public, but I don’t move by myself. I move with a body,” Garza said. “We did got a good briefing on the legal parameters of releasing the video. I understand different perspectives as to why not to, but again if it was me. If I wasn’t moving with a body, my stance is that I don’t see a reason why … body-camera footage should not be open to the public. But that is my personal opinion.”

No other council member gave a statement.

San Marcos Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666