Don’t judge until probe is completed

Why call for an independent investigation into the shooting death of local man Matthew Burroughs by Niles police officers before the state attorney general’s probe is even complete?

A community group representing Warren, Niles and Youngstown gathered on Martin Luther King Day last week at Second Baptist Church with two primary intentions: to honor Martin Luther King Jr. and to seek justice for Matthew Burroughs — clearly admirable causes.

In a statement released by that group, members are calling for an independent probe, despite the fact the Bureau of Criminal Investigation — an arm of the Ohio Attorney General’s office — still is investigating. BCI had been called in immediately by Niles police in an attempt to eliminate any conflict of interest or any appearance of impropriety after Burroughs was killed by police officers in Niles earlier this month.

The group, however, seems dissatisfied with that decision, and in their prepared statement last week said they “want to ensure that there are no connections between the Niles PD and BCI investigators that will be a conflict of interest. … If it comes to it, there must be a special prosecutor for the same reasons. Additionally, we request the release of all dash camera and body camera footage so the events of that day can be revealed to the public.”

Obviously, the Tribune Chronicle always seeks openness and transparency. This newspaper has been first in line seeking release of all information involving this shooting since the day it occurred. We publicly demanded release of the involved officers’ names, sought their personnel files and reported on what we found. We have made requests for any dash camera or body camera video, coroner reports, police reports and all other related public records. We have spoken to neighbors in the apartment complex and sought as much detail as we could uncover independently.

We, too, have been extremely disappointed with investigators’ refusal to release any police cruiser dash camera or body camera video while the investigation is taking place. Certainly, we argue that those video recordings are a public record that should not be withheld.

At the same time, however, we understand the Ohio Attorney General’s investigators need time to conduct with painstaking detail their investigation into what happened.

For that reason, we urge the members of this group seeking justice to allow investigators to do their work in doing just that, before rushing to judgment or painting a picture that something inappropriate must be going on.

Just like all of us, including Matthew Burroughs, the two Niles officers involved in the shooting are innocent until proven guilty of any wrongdoing. Let’s give all those involved the same courtesy by not passing judgment before their investigation concludes.