Albany County Attorney Denies Request for Shooting Video, Emails
The Albany County attorney has denied two groups' request for the release of full body camera footage of, and emails connect to, the officer-involved shooting that left a Laramie man dead earlier this month.
The request stems from the fatal shooting of Robbie Ramirez by Albany County Sheriff's Corporal Derek Colling during a Nov. 4 altercation in Laramie. Officer Colling's checkered work history raised questions among community members when he joined the force in 2014, and has helped fuel public outcry in the wake of this month's shooting.
During a Nov. 13 press conference, Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent allowed some members of the media to view some of the footage captured by Colling's body-worn camera on Nov. 4. The limited release led two groups, Albany County for Proper Policing and the ACLU of Wyoming, to formally request a public showing of the full video, the release of personnel files on Colling and email correspondence related to the Nov. 13 news conference. That request was filed Tuesday morning.
The groups had asked that Trent, should she decide to deny their request, issue a written response citing Wyoming statute as justification for such a decision. Trent's office, which continues to investigate the shooting, provided that response Tuesday evening.
In the letter, Trent wrote that her office is denying the viewing request due to the risk of compromising the pending investigation. She wrote that "other pieces of evidence which are relevant to the shooting are still being tested and relate to information contained in the peace officer recordings."
Trent stated that her authority to deny such a request is granted in the Wyoming Open Records Act under Wyoming Statute 16-4-203. She added that "according to Rules 3.6 and 3.8 of the Wyoming Rules of Professional Responsibility governing prosecutors and law enforcement, the County Attorney’s Office and the County Sheriff’s Office are limited as to what information may be revealed to the public related to a pending investigation."
In declining the groups' request for her to release relevant correspondence between the attorney's office and the Albany County Sheriff's Office, Trent's letter noted that the "emails contain privileged legal advice to the Albany County Sheriff’s Office," referencing the same Wyoming Open Records Act statute as well as two others; Wyo. Stat. 1-12-101 (a)(i) and Wyo. Stat. 18-3-302.
Trent did release copies of some emails relating to press releases from November 4, 6, and 13, as well as the ASCO Policy Manual, as requested.
In response to the statement from Trent, ACoPP organizer Karlee Provenza told Laramie Live that she feels the letter -- specifically, the section regarding privileged legal advice -- raises questions about whether a conflict of interest exists when a county attorney provides legal advice to a law enforcement agency, but may end up prosecuting an agency employee.
Provenza added that ACoPP also disagrees that a full viewing will harm the investigation.
Policy Director Sabrina King of ACLU Wyoming had similar comments, saying that she disagrees with Trent's refusal on grounds that Trent is citing guidelines which "Trent herself has already broken" by showing bits of footage to the press. King added that she feels there is no reason to not release the full video at this point.
Both groups say they will continue their pursuit of a full records and body camera footage release.