Danville aldermen urge release of any video of officer-involved shooting

Danville aldermen urge release of any video of officer-involved shooting

DANVILLE — Three black Danville aldermen are asking that police dash-cam video, including any audio, of the officer-involved fatal shooting of 34-year-old DaNathe M. Gulliford earlier this week be released immediately to the public to resolve "heightened tensions" in the community.

Alderman Rickey Williams Jr. said he is terrified that Danville may experience unrest like in other U.S. cities where officer-involved shootings have occurred.

"Anything we can do to prevent that from happening is critical," said Williams, adding that he has a huge amount of respect for law enforcement, doesn't envy the job they must do and is inclined to believe the facts that Danville police have released so far.

"Anything that can show that (police) acted properly can be beneficial to our community."

Illinois State Police are currently investigating Tuesday's incident where Mr. Gulliford was fatally shot by Danville police in the 600 block of Harmon Street.

Pending the state police investigation, Danville police have released only basic details, stating that the shooting occurred after a call about a domestic disturbance at a residence in the 600 block of Sherman Street. During the disturbance, a 34-year-old man, later identified as Mr. Gulliford, reportedly threatened someone with a gun, and a 39-year-old woman and 43-year-old man were injured.

Public Safety Director Larry Thomason said a description of Mr. Gulliford and his vehicle, along with his license-plate number, were put out over the police radio. Two Danville officers — a veteran and a trainee — spotted the vehicle on Harmon and made a traffic stop. Thomason said the officers repeatedly ordered Mr. Gulliford to exit the vehicle with his hands showing, but he didn't comply, and when he did emerge, he was seen with a firearm in his hand. At some point, Thomason said, the officers fired at Mr. Gulliford, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

In their joint statement released Friday, Aldermen Lloyd Randle, Brenda Brown and Williams said it's "crucial that the community allow the necessary due process to run its course as it relates to the ongoing investigation" by Illinois State Police, and that "action without evidence could be detrimental to both the outcome of the investigation and our community."

But later in their statement, they said that as elected representatives of city government, they "publicly request to review any video and/or audio footage of the incident that exists and that any such footage be released to the public post haste."

Williams said he and Randle met with Thomason on Wednesday and asked to review any police footage. He said Thomason explained that those materials have all been turned over to state police for their investigation and are no longer in the city's possession.

On Friday, Williams said they understand that, but in other cases nationally, police have released video while a case is still under investigation.

"We would hope that they do so as soon as possible," said Williams, who added that he believes as more time passes without release of video to the public, the more tension will escalate.

Since their meeting with Thomason, Randle said he has reached out to Illinois State Police officials, who told him that once their investigation is complete, their report and materials will be turned over to the Vermilion County State's Attorney's Office. Randle said they plan to file a Freedom of Information Act request asking for video and audio footage.

"We just want the assurance that what has been reported actually happened," Randle said, adding that nobody in the community has any concrete information to substantiate any claims or accusations. He said there are a lot of things being said in the community and on social media, and the public has a right to know so they can differentiate between fact and fiction.

"This is a very serious issue for people in our community, and they want answers and deserve answers," Randle said.

The aldermen's statement said "transparency is vital" in police agencies' interactions with communities when incidents like this happen.

"We want to get this right the first time to ensure that justice is served and no public confidence is lost," they said. And "in light of the unprecedented number of police shootings throughout this country involving African-Americans and African-American men specifically, we as African-American elected officials believe it is our duty to speak up. We have been chosen by members of this community to represent their interests and to make their concerns known. Therefore, on their behalf and ours, we vehemently insist that this investigation be thorough, fair, impartial and without bias in any regard to all parties involved."

The city's only other black alderman, R.J. Davis, refused to sign the statement, according to the other three. Davis could not be reached for comment Friday.

Williams said he doesn't want Danville to experience situations like what happened after the 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

"Things are very tense right now, and I just want to make sure that we keep everyone — the police, citizens, everyone — in our community safe," Williams said.