District Attorney Responds To Allegations Of Tampering With Evidence - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

2/7/06-Gilmer

District Attorney Responds To Allegations Of Tampering With Evidence

A man fatally shot by a Gladewater Police Officer following a chase may have had a reason to run.

25-year-old Jonathan King was on probation when he led Officer Bryan Naismith on a pursuit.

It ended with King being fatally shot by the officer. Naismith was cleared of all charges, but since then, the Upshur County district attorney's office has been accused of a cover up.

"The allegations of my office covering up, erasing or altering, in my opinion is irresponsible reporting, and the machinations of the plaintiffs attorneys," says District Attorney Mike Fetter.

He says accusations of tampering with videotape and altering witness statements are flat wrong.

"I am here to tell you that is just not the truth," he said.

Gladewater Officer Bryan Naismith's dashboard videotape, which only shows a bit of what happened that June day, has no audio.

Sound might have confirmed Naismith's statement that King was trying to run him down when he fired fatal shots -- the claim of King's family the officer fired at a fleeing suspect.

"It's unfortunate. I wish we did have that audio," Fetter says.

At the start of the chase, the officer failed to flip on the microphone on his uniform, but Fetter says there was never any tampering with the audio.

"The video tape was taken directly from the scene by the Texas Rangers. The videotape was analyzed, investigated, and returned to my office just one day before the grand jury."

Law officers are also accused by family of fabricating the statement of Brandy Bell, a passenger in King's car. That document supports the officer's version that King tried to run him down.

"She read it and signed it.  [The officer] read it to her, and she signed it. Her signature was witnessed by another officer," Fetter says of the first statements taken after the incident.

A relative of Brandy Bell told KLTV Tuesday that Bell has learning disabilities and certainly didn't tell officers that original story. Bell maintains Officer Naismith was the aggressor.

As allegations and conflict remain, Mike Fetter says he now wants to clear the air.

"They understand that our office doesn't operate that way, never has operated that way, and never will operate that way," he added.

A civil lawsuit against Gladewater Police and Officer Naismith is still possible by the King family.  Four years ago, Jonathan King pleaded guilty to slightly injuring a Hawkins police officer who was trying to serve a warrant on him. Sentenced to five years in prison, he served less than a year before a judge released him on probation.

A hit-and-run conviction would have caused that probation to be revoked.

Reported by Morgan Palmer. morganpalmer@kltv.com

 

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