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Petition filed against sheriff’s department to release recordings of fatal 2023 shooting

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An attorney in Raleigh has filed a petition to obtain copies of two video recordings from body-worn cameras captured when Alamance County sheriff’s deputies allegedly shot a Burlington man to death after he threatened them with a knife on May 8, 2023.

Alamance County attorney Rik Stevens filed a brief in superior court last Monday supporting the release of the recordings.

Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call for service from a woman who said she had obtained a domestic violence protection order against Warren Kent Davis, whom they later shot to death last May after he threatened deputies with a knife and refused to surrender, based on a Steven’s brief.

The court file for the petition gives few details about Davis or the location of the deadly shooting.

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However, Davis’ death certificate, filed last May in the Alamance County Register of Deeds’ office, described him as a 43-year-old white male who died from multiple gunshot wounds at 2411 Carolina Road in Burlington, which was described on that document as his ex-girlfriend’s home.  Davis’ address at the time was 1755 Shamrock Drive, Burlington.  He was pronounced dead at 11:32 a.m. on May 8, 2023, according to his death certificate.

James E. Hairston Jr., the attorney in Raleigh who has filed the petition for release of the two video recordings of the encounter, claims the recordings depict the events leading to the fatal shooting.   (The limited documentation included in the court file doesn’t specify who Hairston may be representing.)

The court file includes a cover sheet filed by Hairston in superior court two weeks ago – which states that a notice of the petition was served on the sheriff’s office two weeks ago – but doesn’t contain the actual petition itself.  Instead, the file contains only the cover sheet and the county attorney’s brief supporting the release of the videos.

A woman in Burlington had called 911 on May 8 of last year, alleging that Davis was outside her residence, in violation of the terms of a protective order that had been entered against him, according to a recitation of the factual background outlined in the brief that Stevens has filed in support of Hairston’s petition “for review or request to disclose [recordings of a] a death or serious bodily injury.”

Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene and located Davis on the woman’s property and armed with a knife.

“A brief encounter with Davis resulted in his having attempted to assault deputies with a knife,” according to the county attorney’s brief.  “One deputy responded to the threat by firing her handgun and shooting Davis in the arm and injuring him.

“Davis then retreated further onto the 911 caller’s property, under a vehicle in her back yard,” Stevens recounts in his brief.  Additional deputies arrived at the scene and tried to convince Davis to surrender himself so he could be taken for medical treatment, the county attorney states in his brief.

Those efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, as Davis continued to “threaten the use of his knife against [law enforcement] personnel who approached him to negotiate his surrender,” the brief in support of release of the recordings states.

Instead, Davis continued to threaten deputies at the scene with his knife, and subsequent attempts to take Davis into custody using less-lethal means were also unsuccessful, Stevens writes .

“Deadly force was used in response to Davis’ continued aggressive actions and resuscitative efforts made by law enforcement on scene were, unfortunately, unsuccessful,” Stevens recounts in support of the petition for release of the two recordings sought by Hairston, an attorney and solo practitioner based in Raleigh.

Disclosure of the video recordings being sought by Hairston is governed by state law that requires the six factors to be considered in determining whether release is proper, which the county attorney outlined. factors include: if the person requesting disclosure is authorized to receive it; whether a recording contains information that is confidential or otherwise exempt from disclosure under state law; whether disclosure would reveal information that is of a highly sensitive and personal nature; whether release may jeopardize the reputation or safety of a person; whether disclosure would create a serious threat to the fair, impartial and orderly administration of justice; if confidentiality is necessary to protect an active or inactive internal or criminal investigation, or a potential one.

The sheriff’s “takes no position on Hairston’s authority” to receive the recordings, sought, according to Stevens’ brief.

However, the recordings are confidential in that they depict Davis’ death “and, therefore, fall under the statutory protections against compelled disclosure” and that several deputies depicted were working undercover at the time, and that any public identification of those deputies is protected from disclosure, Stevens notes.

Because there were no known pending criminal or civil proceedings related to the fatal shooting, and the underlying investigations have been completed, the sheriff’s office did not object to releasing the requested videos to Hairston, based on the brief that Stevens has filed on behalf of the sheriff’s office.

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