The D.C. police department is refusing to release a copy of a 911 call made after a shooting at the headquarters of an ultra-conservative Christian lobbying group, even though such recordings are treated as public records in many other jurisdictions.
The Associated Press requested a copy of the Aug. 15 recording under the District of Columbia’s open records law. But the department rejected that request, saying the call was part of an ongoing FBI investigation, that the caller was a witness in the investigation and that it would not be possible to edit the recording to redact sensitive portions of the call.
District officials have used similar justifications in denying other requests for 911 recordings, including an opinion from the executive office of the mayor last May that invoked the privacy interest of the caller. That opinion, which rejected an appeal from a reporter whose request for a 911 call had been denied, said the calls were not presumed to be public records under the D.C. code and that officials didn’t have to disclose the record.
“The release of the 911 tape and/or the identity and telephone number of the caller may interfere with any enforcement proceedings and may expose the caller and possibly other witnesses to harassment and intimidation,” according to a letter the department sent the AP.
The department instead supplied what it calls an “event chronology,” a document that gives a bare-bones summary of the initial report of the shooting and describes which police units responded to the scene and at what time.
A Virginia man was arrested and faces local and federal charges in the shooting. Authorities say he went into the FRC headquarters, struggled with and shot a security officer who then restrained him.
Police said the man, who had previously volunteered with a local LGBT community center and allegedly told the guard he didn’t like FRC’s views, was in possession of an automatic pistol, ammunition and Chick-fil-A sandwiches.