Cherokee Indians Tribal Council Votes for Car/Bodycam Exemption after SWAT Shooting

CIPD SWAT (Cherokee Indian Police Department/Facebook)

“During its April 6 meeting, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council unanimously approved an ordinance change exempting police car and body cam videos from the tribe’s public records law,”  Holly Kays of the Smoky Mountain News reports. “The vote comes on the heels of a Dec. 13, 2022, Cherokee Indian Police Department SWAT response in which officers fired at Murphy resident Jason Harley Kloepfer after he opened the door to his home with his hands held above his head, according to a home security video Kloepfer posted Jan. 18.”

AmmoLand Shooting Sports News reporting included that video in January, followed up by articles questioning the deliberate indifference to this story by major media, a presentation of the Calls for Services recording and transcript with timeline, and documentation of charges dropped against Kloepfer at the request of the individual who set events in motion with a 911 call followed by the District Attorney’s recusal of herself from the case over perceived legal conflicts and questions of other potential conflicts on the part of investigators.

The interests of gun owners in a complete and transparent investigation are clear: Kloepfer was evidently shot as a first reaction by tribal Indian SWAT because of the presumption based on a 911 call from a neighbor that he was armed and dangerous. Any gun owner who might find himself wrongfully accused, whether it be due to a “red flag” complaint or other confiscation order could have his life, and the lives of those he lives with, put in immediate danger. As evidenced by an armed homeowner fatality in a recent wrong house raid, the victim doesn’t even have to be the subject police are looking for.

Without strong checks and balances to ensure police accountability, the danger to all citizens, armed or not, will remain, and it’s not unfair to wonder what part editorial bias might play in the media’s lack of interest in the Kloepfer story. The notable exception is Smoky Mountain News, which has been on top of this story from the start. That’s no small show of commitment when close-knit connections on the part of powerful and seemingly immune local civil authorities are considered.

As things stand, particularly noting “Video of the Dec. 13 shooting had been subpoenaed — but two weeks later, criminal charges against Kloepfer were dismissed and the subpoenas were never executed,” any assumptions outside that civil authority loop about bodycams are speculative. That makes it paramount that investigations receive credible oversight to ensure they are transparent and complete.

This is especially true since, during the Tribal Council meeting, “concern about placing such a strong barrier to public access of law enforcement recordings” was minimal, and “the few representatives who offered comment indicated they saw protection for officers as the priority and cited a desire to give [Cherokee Indian Police Department Chief Carla] Neadeau ‘what she wants’ in this matter.” The ordinance was submitted by Neadeau, and states “It is not feasible nor in the public interest to subject recordings made by body-worn and in-car cameras to the EBCI’s [Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian’s] public records law…”

That’s facilitated by North Carolina state public records law, which “provides that these recordings can be released to the public only by court order.”

Chief Neadeau and the Tribal Council are effectively saying what’s in the police’s interest is in the public’s interest and they’re codifying that into law. And with the lack of concern by major media to inform the public, no one but a handful of citizens will be the wiser.

The unanimously passed ordinance, awaiting action from “Principal Chief Richard Sneed, who has 30 days to either sign it, veto it, or let it pass into law unsigned,” follows:

About David Codrea:

David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating/defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. He blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” is a regularly featured contributor to Firearms News, and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.

David Codrea