During a Mobile City Council meeting Tuesday, several community and City Council members questioned new public information and its potential impact on the grand jury decision on the death of Jawan Dallas.
Jawan died July 2, after he was tased multiple times and hit by police officers. Since Jawan’s death, his family has pursued accountability and transparency regarding their loved one’s passing including allowing at least the family members to see body camera footage of the incident. But, access to that information has been delayed and has to be kept private as it is evidence in the pending grand jury trial according to Mobile City Attorney Ricardo Woods.
Yet, last week, Mobile Police Chief Paul Prine said that the officers involved in Jawan Dallas’ death are not a threat to the community and are in the community working after reviewing evidence. The mayor’s Chief of Staff James Barber also added that after reviewing evidence and the toxicology report the cause of Jawan’s death was not related to the officers.
“In the case with Mr. Dallas those officers are not a threat to the community based on the facts,” Prine said. “Irrespective of emotion and they are back in the field and they are working and they are being productive.”
Barber then followed up with a statement about the officer’s actions not being attributable to Jawan’s death.
“Even though I can’t get into detail with it because of the emotions here,” Barber said, “I’m going to say that the cause of death was not attributed directly to the actions of the police officer.”
Several individuals questioned how they were able to make these claims given the supposed “secrecy” related to grand juries. They also questioned how making public determinations of innocence would not influence the jurors.
Councilman William Carroll called Woods up to the podium to ask how the city could make public determinations related to evidence that the grand jury will see but the Dallas family is still not able to view.
“I’m not trying to be political here,” Carrol said. “I mean we continue to sit through this and the more I hear, I feel like, if I was one of the jurors on the grand jury that my perception of the truth would already be tainted based on everything that I hear in the media and everything I hear and see. I’ve already made a pre-qualified judgement.”
During public comment Rev. Jim Flowers asked how Barber is allowed to see the evidence related to Jawan’s death before his family.
“The mayor’s Chief of Staff has been granted the opportunity to see this information,” Flowers said. “He even brazenly offered an interpretation of it at this council’s last meeting. Is that legal? Does that not undermine the process of justice? Certainly, Mrs. Dallas and her family have more of a right to see the toxicology report and the body cam footage than the mayor’s Chief of Staff.”
Flowers would continue asking how Prine’s comments regarding the officers not being a threat to the community does not prejudice the grand jury investigation.
“The excuse that we keep hearing is that the grand jury has to investigate the details of this event,” Flowers said, “but the officers involved in this tragedy are still working on the street. The Chief of Police has stated publicly that they present no danger to the public. Does that not in fact prejudice this case and the investigation of the grand jury?”