APD turns over shooting files

Police union filed suit to keep records from citizen review panel

p>An Atlanta police union is seeking to block the release of records to a citizen board that is investigating two fatal police shootings, including the killing of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston.

The International Brotherhood of Police Officers filed suit Monday in Fulton County Superior Court against the Atlanta Police Department, the Citizen Review Board and the city council. It seeks an injunction and a restraining order preventing APD from turning over its files involving the killings of Johnston in 2006 and unarmed robbery suspect Pierre George in 2008.

But Cristina Beamud, the board's executive director, said the union filed suit Monday, the same day that APD turned over records in the George case. APD handed over files in the Johnston case Tuesday. "It seems to me their request was brought too late," Beamud said.

Judge Wendy Shoob scheduled a hearing Wednesday morning.

The union's lawyer, John Beall, said the files should not have been turned over to the board until the APD's internal affairs unit and the Fulton District Attorney's Office complete their investigations. If the board were to release any information before those investigations are finished, it could unfairly prejudice the case, Beall said.

Said union leader Sgt. Scott Kreher, "It threatens to violate our officers' due process rights."

The citizen board was created in 2007 after Johnston was killed by police gunfire during an illegal raid into her home. Three former officers are now serving prison time for their roles in the case.

On June 15, the city council issued a subpoena ordering APD to turn over its records of the two fatal shootings to the review board by July 6.

The board has vowed to keep its records confidential, Beamud added, calling "imaginary" the union's claims that any release of information would be damaging.

Atlanta Police spokeswoman Lisa Keyes, in a statement Tuesday, said the department released the Johnston information to City Council Member Felicia Moore, who forwarded the documents to the review board. "The documents remain part of an open internal investigation of the Atlanta Police Department, and thus are not subject to disclosure under the Open Records Act," she said.

Last week, Fulton DA Paul Howard asked the board to postpone its review of George's killing until prosecutors decide whether to bring charges.

This could take two years, Beamud said. "That's not an acceptable amount of time for us if we're deciding why deadly force was used by an officer."

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