More than a month has passed since Colorado Community Media requested release of body camera footage from Englewood police officers involved in a July 24 shooting that left one unarmed man dead.
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Matthew Neal Mitchell, 22, was shot and killed as police engaged in a shootout with his brother — 29-year-old Phillip L. Blankenship — who was arrested at the scene and charged July 29 with attempted first-degree murder.
In an Aug. 5 ruling, Arapahoe County Court Judge Kelly Ann Lafave sided with Blankenship's defense team, which requested the footage not be publicly released.
"This motion is predicated on Mr. Blankenship's state and federal constitutional rights to due process, and a fair and impartial trial by a fair and impartial jury," wrote Megan A. Ring, a Colorado state public defender.
Eric Ross, spokesperson for the 18th Judicial District — which is investigating the July 24 shooting — said the footage "will likely be part of the trial, so after it physically airs in a courtroom, there's less of an argument to continue the 'blocking' of its release."
A trial date has not been set, Ross said, but Blankenship is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Sept. 21.
Ross said the judge's ruling does not mean footage "won't ever be released or available" but that it's "temporarily blocked from release right now."
Jeff Roberts, executive director for the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, said withholding the footage, at least until a trial, is "the closest thing to not releasing it."
There's still a tremendous public interest in body cam footage when there's a police shooting," Roberts said. "In situations like this, you want to get as close to the truth of what happened, and the body cam footage is a vital record for that."
Englewood Police Chief Sam Watson, in a recorded statement July 28, said "footage will be released as the investigation allows" and will show "the extreme risk that the officers and community faced in this event."
The Englewood Police Department and other city officials have since been blocked from speaking publically about the shooting after an Arapahoe County judge issued a gag order July 29.
According to a police affidavit of the incident, officers were sent to investigate a call at a home at 5007 S. Grove St. in southwest Englewood at about 7:39 p.m. July 24.
Blankenship's mother, Kimberly Mitchell, called police because her son was intoxicated and causing a disturbance. She told officers her son was suicidal and shot a gun inside the home.
After officers arrived, they made "loud commands" for Blankenship to exit the home, the affidavit says, before Blankenship began firing shots at officers from the home.
According to the affidavit, police began firing back and Blankenship's brother — who was barricaded inside a bedroom with Blakenship —suffered a fatal gunshot wound.
Blankenship then exited the house and was arrested, the affidavit says. He later told investigators he was the only person shooting at officers and that his brother did not fire a single shot.
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