Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson lied when he said he had received "many" specific requests for the videotape that allegedly shows Michael Brown robbing a convenience store, according to a new report.
"All I did -- what I did was -- was release the videotape to you, because I had to," Jackson told reporters on Aug. 15 when asked why he released the robbery footage. "I’d been sitting on it, but I -- too many people put in a [Freedom of Information Act] request for that thing, and I had to release that tape to you."
Writing for The Blot, Matthew Keys reports that the police department did not receive any specific requests for the videotape.
"A review of open records requests sent to the Ferguson Police Department found that no news organization, reporter or individual specifically sought the release of the surveillance tape before police distributed it on Aug. 15," Keys writes.
There was one reporter, Joel Currier with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who asked for any and all evidence "leading up to" Brown’s death in a FOIA request. The request could have possibly included the tape, since the incident report on the robbery identifies Brown as a suspect in the crime.
Currier told The Huffington Post's Matt Sledge in a tweet that "I can't recall if I knew of robbery at the time of request. I made it broad in hopes of getting as much material as possible."
In another tweet, he added, "I think I may have been hearing rumors of a robbery but nothing confirmed."
Journalist Andrew Perez also said that he has tried to get the documents to show who sent FOIA requests for the recording.
"I requested all requests for the videotape too, and they produced a ton of docs but no requests for the tape," Perez tweeted.
Perez also tweeted that, when asked, Ferguson Police spokesperson Tim Zoll couldn't think of any specific requests for the tape.
Authorities have still not released the incident report for Brown's killing. The St. Louis County Police Department is in charge of deciding when that report will be released.
UPDATE: Ferguson City Attorney Stephanie Karr released a statement early Saturday morning. She notes that many requests for documents and information were not made in writing because "the City's website and email were down at several points during that week." The release does not say whether any of those requests were for the robbery video.
Within days of the tragic events on August 9, the City of Ferguson began receiving multiple requests for information and documents. While some of these requests were made in writing, many requests were made verbally due to the fact that the City's website and email were down at several points during that week. City personnel cataloged all requests and treated them in the same manner as it would any Sunshine Law request. (The “Sunshine Law” is Missouri’s equivalent of the federal Freedom of Information Act).
Several reporters, news organizations and others asked for documents specifically pertaining to Michael Brown. One such request was made by the St. Louis Post Dispatch. On August 12, 2014, the paper requested “all documentation concerning the events leading up to and including the shooting of Michael Brown" which shall include “incident, arrest and investigative reports, 911 audio, photos and video retained by the police department.” Another request, made on August 14, 2014, by Judicial Watch requested all records relating to Michael Brown and dated between August 1, 2013, and August 9, 2014.
The Sunshine Law dictates that Governmental entities must respond to both general requests and specific requests and release all documents that are responsive to the those requests, unless those documents are otherwise closed.
The Ferguson police department retained the incident and investigative report of the store robbery which occurred less than 10 minutes before the shooting. The reports, which included the surveillance video, concerned Michael Brown. Under the Sunshine Law, the police department had no reason to close these records and withhold them from the public.
By the date of August 15, the City having reached its statutory deadline to respond to the information requests, released the store robbery reports, including the surveillance video.
Ryan J. Reilly and Matt Sledge contributed reporting.