The Raleigh Police Department released footage today taken from several officers’ body cameras the night in November that LaDonna Clark says her elderly parents and six-year-old son were ordered out of their Southeast Raleigh home at gunpoint so police could execute a search warrant. 

In a statement posted with the video, the RPD said the footage vindicated its officers and contradicted the Clarks’ stories. “All officers were some distance away and were behind cover as the Clarks exited the residence,” the RPD says. “No weapons were pointed at the Clarks as they exited the house.”

But there are no close-ups of the child or grandparents leaving the home, and much of the footage is shot from a distance and difficult to make out. (Raleigh police told the INDY Friday afternoon that there were no close-ups because “the officers were some distance away for safety reasons.”) However, guns appear to be in both frames that show the grandparents exiting the house. 

The INDY broke LaDonna Clark’s story earlier this month, before she alleged at a Raleigh City Council meeting on February 5 that police had pointed military-style rifles at her six-year-old son, who has special needs, and parents, Wanda and Michael Clark, as they exited their home November 14 before police executed a warrant.

The cops were searching for evidence in connection with a November 12 armed robbery at a Capital Boulevard AT&T, in which LaDonna Clark’s nephew Brian Clark is a suspect. Brian Clark allegedly left a box at the scene with Michael and Wanda Clark’s Friar Tuck Road address on it. 

After the incident, LaDonna Clark says she attempted to open an internal affairs complaint with the RPD, but the police attempted to stonewall her, requesting in-person interviews before the complaint could proceed. When she came into the station to view the footage, LaDonna Clark says, she was only shown a short clip of body-camera footage of her father exiting the home, shot from a distance. (According to RPD spokeswoman Donna-maria Harris, LaDonna Clark was only allowed to see the portion of the footage that showed her son, which is different from what she said she saw.) Frustrated with what she believed was the police’s disinterest in her complaint and failure to investigate the incident, she took her story to the ACLU and city council member Corey Branch.

In a memo earlier today to city manager Ruffin Hall, police chief Cassandra Deck-Brown blamed the Clarks for any miscommunication: “Upon initial review of the [body-camera] video, members of [the internal affairs unit] did not observe any evidence to corroborate the allegations made by Ms. Clark. After the Clarks reviewed the video and obtained the documents, a sergeant with [internal affairs] attempted to interview the Clarks to gather additional details about their complaints. Mr. Clark then stated they needed time to read over the documents and contemplate what they saw on video. … Neither Ms. Clark nor Mr. Clark contacted [internal affairs] to follow up on their complaint. On February 1, 2018 [sic], Indy Week contacted the Raleigh Police Department about the warrant service at 3318 Friar Tuck Rd. [Internal affairs] attempted to contact LaDonna Clark by email on February 1st. As of this date, RPD has not received any further communication from the complainants.”

In the forty minutes of footage the police released after obtaining permission from the Superior Court, multiple officers are seen staged in and around the home. It’s dark outside, and details are difficult to make out. At about the seven-minute mark, you can see from a distance Michael Clark exiting the home and walking backward between cars parked in the driveway, toward the white SWAT van parked on the lawn. As he is walking, the officer filming through a body camera lifts a large, dark object into the frame. 

RPD spokeswoman Donna-maria Harris confirms that this is a rifle.

“It appears that the officer was adjusting the shoulder strap which caused the top of the rifle to come into view of the camera,” she told the INDY in an email. “At all times, the barrel of the weapon remains pointed at the ground as Mr. Clark exits the residence.”

Later, in a video taken from another officer, you can see the vague outlines of Wanda Clark and the child exit the home with the outline of a gun in the forefront of the frame. 

“The officer positioned at the rear of the house had his rifle pointed at the ground, as he has been trained to do, for the duration of the video, including when Mrs. Clark and the child exited the house,” Harris wrote. “Any insinuation that the weapon came into view only when Mrs. Clark and the child exited the house is inaccurate.”

The police issued the following statement in the video released on YouTube: “The video and investigation do not support Ms. LaDonna Clark’s allegations that her family had rifles pointed at them or that they were made to sit ouside [sic] for over an hour. While members of [SWAT team] did have rifles, they kept them pointed at the ground or away from people at all times while the Clarks were exiting and outside the home.

“While we understand and respect that this was a difficult and challenging situation for the Clark family, the members of the Raleigh Police Department carried out their difficult and dangerous police responsibilities professionally, with respect, and in accordance with law and policies.”

While LaDonna Clark said her family was kept outside for more than an hour, the police say the raid lasted only twenty minutes.  

Reached Friday, LaDonna Clark told the INDY the video does not prove guns weren’t pointed at her child and says she’s outraged she that the footage was posted publicly when she was only permitted to view a short clip.

“I shouldn’t have had to sit and go through all these damn hoops and hurdles just for you to show me something,” LaDonna Clark says. “This only substantiates as well as validates my concern this damn department is just doing whatever the hell they want and just puppeteering the series of events where now you have just invaded my family’s privacy by showing all that unnecessary stuff that you wouldn’t even allow my father to see.”

She adds, “You can’t sit here and tell me you have a whole SWAT team and you don’t actually have footage of them walking out. I want to see footage of them walking out.”

Ivanna Gonzalez, an advocate for the Police Accountability Community Taskforce who has been working with the Clarks, says the footage “highlights that [police] are trying to skirt around this on a technicality perspective.”

“To me, this speaks to a police department that is really interested that they were fine on policy, but are not interested in talking about the dignity of human beings and whether they traumatized a black family and if they are OK with that as collateral damage in police investigations,” Gonzalez says. “The video is consistent with what the family says they experienced and whether it was thirteen minutes versus what could have felt like an eternity doesn’t matter to me, because what they experienced was really traumatic and [police] don’t seem to care about that.”

This story has been updated with comments from the Raleigh Police Department. 

View the full video here: 

YouTube video


LaDonna Clark and the Raleigh PACT held a press conference to address the RPD’s release of body-camera footage Friday afternoon. 

“I consider it a violation of my family’s civil rights and privacy that RPD orchestrated the release of some of this footage as a public relations stunt,” LaDonna Clark said. “RPD, I am still going to hold you legally, morally, and ethically responsible for the laws you should adhere and abide by. You will not deceive or bamboozle the public by releasing carefully crafted video that shows you going into the household, however refusing to show the video of my son and my mother, as well as my father.”

She added, “You will not bully or silence me by justifying or rationalizing the unnecessary use of force towards a child with autism and two senior citizen parents.”

Watch the whole press conference here: 

One reply on “Raleigh Cops Say This Body-Cam Video Vindicates Them. You Be the Judge.”

  1. This situation vividly displays the limitations of Police Body Cam footage.
    I won`t call Citizen Clark a liar….
    Nor will I call the Raleigh PD liars….
    Frankly… You really cannot tell SQUAT about the actions of SWAT from this POV mess of poorly-framed reality.

    In fact, the only telling truths that come clearly across to me, are that our law enforcement is becoming EXTREMELY para-military in it`s go-to approach to anything more than traffic stops, and all the shaky-blinder-bracketed camera footage shows is a subjective reality whose reference points are defined by perception, of not by actual film-editing.

    It`s too bad that none of our presidentially-villified so-called ‘lying media’ were on hand to document this incident with wide-angle lenses and a better vantage point.

    As it goes, all I am left with is the uncertainty of what really happened at that legally-warranted search….
    ….and the certainty that it was a bit of a stretch in reason & logic calling out a tactical response SWAT team approach on a ‘Definite Maybe’ that the SUSPECT in question just MIGHT be there–assuming that he was grossly stupid enough to be staying anywhere that he had been previously known to live after committing a Felony.

    Bottom Line: Innocent Citizens Terrorized, No Suspect Apprehended.

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