Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson’s office has thrown an even darker veil of secrecy over the investigation into Grapevine police officer Robert Clark’s killing of unarmed Ruben García Villalpando.
Wilson’s office has instructed Grapevine not to release video of the Feb. 20 incident captured by the dash cam in Clark’s patrol car.
That’s a shame for various reasons, but mainly because members of the public deserve to know more about this case — and soon.
Grapevine police had said they would release the video by the end of the week.
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Now that probably won’t happen for months, until after the case has been presented to a grand jury or, if there is an indictment, until the evidence is presented in court.
“They do not want us to release that video due to the fact that it’s evidence in a criminal investigation,” Grapevine police spokesman Sgt. Robert Eberling told Star-Telegram reporter Monica S. Nagy.
That’s typically how criminal cases go. But there are complications in this one.
Eberling said the chief prosecuting attorney said in a statement: “Due process requires that evidence not be released to the public while an investigation is ongoing; therefore, the Criminal District Attorney’s Office requests that in this case, as in all cases, no evidence be released to the public while the investigation is pending.”
But those due process requirements with regard to the dash cam video have already been compromised.
Police have shown the video to García’s family.
García’s brother-in-law, Fernando Romero, and police themselves have described what it shows.
Not to get into a legal argument with Wilson and the experienced attorneys in her office, but when confidentiality is that far blown, it’s typically considered to no longer exist.
The only thing missing is the public’s ability to see it and judge for themselves.
Clark shot García after stopping his car on the side of Texas 121 in Euless, so Euless police are handling the criminal investigation.
Euless Lt. Eric Starnes told Nagy that to release the video would “have poisoned the entire jury pool” should Clark go to trial.
It’s important to note that no such reference was in the statement from the DA’s office.
As far as tainting a jury pool is concerned, release of the video could hardly do more damage than has already been done. The video should be released.