The family of Malik Jackson is protesting the City of Tallahassee’s decision to release body camera image of his death in the wake of a grand jury decision. The Grand Jury determined the use of force in three officer-involved shootings was justified. One of those cases involved Tony McDade, who stabbed and killed Jackson before being shot and killed by police.
Abigail Jackson, Malik’s aunt, says witnessing her nephew’s last breath, and subsequent handling by emergency responders, was devastating. She says the family was starting to heal but that the body camera video has plunged them all “into pure hell.”
About 10 Jackson family members along with City Commission candidate Bill Schack stood in front of the Old Capitol Saturday morning holding signs. Some vehicles, including a few driven by law enforcement, honked in support as they passed by.
“I was hit like a semi-truck at high rate of speed. Because what we saw on the news was that there wouldn’t be a verdict for seven days. Three hours later, we’re getting a call from WCTV,” Jackson said.
“The city of Tallahassee disrespected my family to the upmost. We didn’t have those images in our head…for me to open up Facebook and see my nephew taking his last breath and EMT’s dragging him like a sack of potatoes? We’ve been living in pure hell since May 27th.”
Jackson says some commissioners and Mayor John Dailey reached out to her after the release. Local attorney Anabelle Dias wrote a letter to the city demanding the video of Jackson be redacted or removed.
In response, City Attorney Cassandra Jackson wrote “Although the family had previously expressed dismay that the City had not publicized the attack on Mr. Jackson and his death, and the family had released his name in both mainstream and social media, the Tallahassee Police Department still spoke to the family’s legal representative to advise the family that the footage would be made public immediately following the grand jury’s decision and to advise them of the graphic nature of the video. The City was assured by the family’s legal representative that this communication would be made. In the circumstances that you referenced below, the victims did not waive confidentiality.”
John Leace, Ryan Molaghan and Paul Aloise Jr. are the attorneys for the Jackson family. Aloise Jr. says a victim advocate told Leace the videos would be released, but “he was never told about Malik being in the video nor it being so graphic. We were under the impression it would be of McDade, as Malik was at a different scene.”
While the video appears to be set to private if being directly accessed on YouTube, it’s still visible if being accessed through the city’s website.
In Florida, body camera videos are considered public records, but the family is asking why they weren’t granted victim privacy protections under the Marsy’s Law Constitutional Amendment. The law states, in part, that victims have: “The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of, and to be present at, all public proceedings involving the criminal conduct, including, but not limited to, trial, plea, sentencing, or adjudication, even if the victim will be a witness at the proceeding, notwithstanding any rule to the contrary. A victim shall also be provided reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any release or escape of the defendant or delinquent, and any proceeding during which a right of the victim is implicated.”
Schack, whose family stood alongside the Jacksons and was among the first people to reach out to them after the shooting, says they reached out to him Friday night following the video release.
“And all I could do as a citizen, is to try and find out why this happened. I think they [city officials] should do whatever they can to redact that part. I think there should be a protected right for the family, especially since they didn’t reach out. The fact they’re doing it now shows a lack of leadership to me,” he said.
Abigail Jackson says she’s been prescribed medication for anxiety and depression, something she’s never had to do before. “I hear sirens I can’t breathe. I see knives in a video, I can’t breathe. I work by the hospital and I had to by headphones to cover up the sirens going to TMH [Tallahassee Memorial Hospital]. That’s how bad it is.”
The body camera footage of the Holton Street shooting was released along with footage of two other shootings. In one, a victim of an attempted car jacking is blurred, and Jackson wants to know why her family wasn’t afforded the same.
“I think it’s been established that the city has a legal right to put out that video, but the question we’re asking is ‘what’s the moral right?’ What’s the right thing to do? And the right thing to do is not to inflict unnecessary trauma on a family going through a really troubling time right now,” said City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow. He notes the city could have opted to release the video in a different manner and has asked City Manager Reese Goad to remove the clips involving Jackson, but says Goad has refused. Now, Matlow is planning to bring the issue before the city commission Wednesday.
“We can comply with public record law, and at the same time, avoid this unnecessary angst in people lives,” he said. “It’s a very difficult time they’re going through and we’re just pouring gasoline on the fire.”