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NASHVILLE — State Bureau of Investigation agents testified Thursday that only one of at least eight body and dashboard cameras was turned on during a February deputy-involved shooting that left one man dead.
Reid Sasser, agent-in-charge for the SBI, said during questioning he had seen most of the footage from the early morning standoff and death of Johnathan Ramirez, who was killed by Nash County sheriff’s deputies who responded to a possible sexual assault Feb. 9 outside Bailey.
He said there was no body camera footage for Sgt. John Winstead, and although the footage was taken at the scene, Deputy Stan Ricks, Lt. William Murphy and Detective Taylor Neal’s cameras were not turned on until after the shooting occurred. Another deputy who was dispatched to the scene did have his camera on during the shooting, but it is unclear what his camera recorded. In addition, he said none of the patrol car dash cameras were in operation.
Sasser said one car was not equipped with a dash camera, another was broken and the third was not turned on because the officer did not activate his patrol lights, which automatically turn on the camera.
Winstead, Ricks and Neal, who were directly involved in the shooting, remain on administrative leave while the SBI continues its review of the incident, which is standard procedure.
Inside the courtroom, a collective gasp was heard throughout the gallery followed by heavy sobbing when Sasser testified that nearly all of the cameras were not recording when the shooting occurred.
Superior Court Judge Quentin Sumner ordered the footage to be released following the hearing on complementary motions from the Ramirez family and television stations WRAL, WNCN and WTVD. Sumner said he would allow the family to view the footage first and release it to the media within five days.
“Let people decide for themselves what happened and how it happened,” said Mike Tadych, attorney for the media outlets.
Attorneys for Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone and the district attorney’s office argued that the footage should not be released due to the State Bureau of Investigation’s ongoing probe. Stone’s attorney said the sheriff initially wanted to show the footage to the family but the SBI advised him against doing so.