The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office posted a video on Facebook yesterday in advance of the release public records concerning the Dec. 6 terrorist attack at NAS Pensacola.
Sheriff Chip Simmons explained why he released the video that opened with him at his desk and closed with a clip of him serving as Chief Deputy at a press conference the day of the shooting: “Due to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office fulfilling a large public records request in reference to the terrorist attack on December 6th 2019, onboard NAS Pensacola, we have decided to release our own video along with the request. This video highlights the actions and bravery of the deputies that responded to the navy base on that day.”
Levin Papantonio Rafferty attorney Chris Paulos questions why all the victims’ families – his clients – weren’t allowed to see the edited video before its release. His firm has been waiting two years for the public records.
“I haven’t received anything yet,” Paulos said on 1370 WCOA this morning. “My understanding is that some of the victims were directly provided some materials. We haven’t been able to wrap our arms around those yet, but I know for a fact that the attorneys, myself included, representing the victims have not received a complete set or anything from the records released from Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.”
The attorney found it interesting that the ECSO would take the time to create video but not provide the raw data to his firm or other media, like Inweekly, who have standing requests for the records.
“My understanding is that the release was a response, not to a record request from the families, mind you, from us, from the attorneys wanting evidence for our active lawsuit against Saudi Arabia, but from a media request, our records requests are still pending,” said Paulos. “And I thought it was a little rich that the resources had been put into creating a video editing down what I believe to be a significant amount of audio from 911 calls and radio traffic, as well as dash cam video to put that video out.”
He pointed out that no one in the community has questioned the bravery of the deputies who dealt with the terrorist. “It just seemed a little awkward to have that rolled out as opposed to really making sure that people that need this information have it in an unvarnished way, kind of an unadulterated way and kind of let the material speak for themselves.”
Paulos and his firm have handled lawsuits around the country. In those case, when the companies released a video before handing over documents, what did he see as their motive?
“Particularly in an adversarial process, you believe it’s because they’re trying to control the interpretation of the information, kind of control the message,” he shared. “Here, understanding that this release was in response to a records request from a media outlet or multiple media outlets, it’s clear that they are trying to out-scoop the scoopers.”
He continued, “If you look at who was tagged in that Facebook page, it was a lot of the local media outlets. So I don’t know exactly which media outlets this was intended to respond to, but it’s clear that the Sheriff’s office wanted to make sure that their interpretation of the footage and their version of events was the first to be digested by the public.”
Paulos said he believes some victims and their families were invited to come to Pensacola to view the material in advance of its release, but only after his firm got wind that the release was coming and made a demand that the victims be permitted an opportunity to view it before they saw it on Facebook.
He said, “One thing I do know is that the victims were not given an opportunity to watch the sheriff’s video that had been edited and released. And it was essentially the first thing to hit the internet.”
Many more documents needed to be released than the ECSO video yesterday.
“I think there’s no doubt that our first responders responded to this swiftly and decisively, and what we see is just the tip of the iceberg, and the release that came out yesterday–that is just a few dash cam videos and a few radio transmissions,” said Paulos. “So, I want to use this opportunity to call upon all agencies, state and federal, to release all of the information that you have in your possession over this terrorist attack, because it’s certainly needed at this time by our victims for our lawsuit and for the public at large.”