BEL AIR, Md. (WJZ) — A judge on Thursday ordered Harford County Sheriff Jeff Gahler to hand over evidence to state investigators from the shooting death of a man killed by deputies over the weekend.
The judge granted a temporary restraining order to Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh to keep the sheriff’s office from interfering with an independent state investigation into the death of John Raymond Fauver.
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After the ruling which requires the Sheriff’s office to hand over all evidence by midnight tomorrow, the AG said “We’re very pleased with the court’s decision”. pic.twitter.com/p4cEso1z86
— Avajoye Burnett (@AvajoyeWJZ) April 28, 2022
“We’re very pleased with the court’s decision,” Frosh said after the hearing.
The sheriff’s office has until midnight Friday to hand over any evidence requested by the attorney general’s office. The sheriff said he will comply with the order and has no plans to appeal the ruling.
Later in the day, Gahler reacted to the judge’s order by lashing out at Frosh in a statement.
“It is shameful that Mr. Frosh would not work to resolve these issues in the many months available, but for purely political purposes has chosen to use this tragedy as political fodder,” Gahler said. “Our citizens deserve better and the families that are tied to this investigation deserve better.”
The ruling stems from a complaint Frosh filed Monday, which accused Gahler of denying state investigators unfettered access to evidence and body-camera video recorded during Saturday’s shooting.
The Attorney General said valuable time to review evidence was running out.
“We think that this is something that is immediate and extremely important. As I said in court, witnesses memories fade, they disappear. Sometimes they talk to each other and consciously or subconsciously their view of what happened changes and we need to be able to talk to the witnesses,” says Attorney General Frosh.
Deputies were responding to a report of an armed man in Bel Air about 2:45 p.m. on Saturday when two deputies fired upon Fauver, a 53-year-old Whiteford man whom Gahler characterized as “suicidal.” Fauver did not survive.READ MORE: 'Masking Is A Really Good Idea': Hopkins Experts Urge Caution As COVID-19 Cases Surge Again
Gahler argued that the attorney general’s office was welcome to review the material at the sheriff’s office headquarters. He voiced concerns that the state could release video too early and taint the investigation.
“If… they decide to release (body camera footage) outside the wishes of the state’s attorney, that is certainly something, I believe, contrary to law, but contrary to being able to conduct a complete and unbiased investigation,” Gahler said.
Frosh accused the sheriff of breaking the law by not handing over evidence in a timely fashion and not sharing footage of the incident with his investigators.
Established in response to 2021 police reforms, the attorney general’s Independent Investigations Division is tasked with investigating all civilian deaths at the hands of law enforcement.
In court, the attorney general argued that the hearing was an “emergency” because his office needs to interview witnesses and review evidence including scene video and 911 recordings.
An attorney representing Gahler countered that the attorney general’s office already had access to the video, which would be reviewed by investigators in private.
The judge, who took more than an hour to review arguments from both sides, cited the intent of the General Assembly—to guarantee an independent investigation of police shootings—when it passed Senate Bill 600.
She said the intent of the law, which said local law enforcement “shall cooperate” with state investigators, is “one-way cooperation.”
“I hear the judge and I understand what she’s saying, but the word cooperation is now one-sided cooperation means whatever the Attorney General says it means,” Gahler said. “That’s not the cooperation out of the dictionary—the word I understand which requires two parties to work together to an end.”MORE NEWS: Man, 35, Charged With Murder In Deadly East Baltimore Shooting
Gahler noted in his statement that he would continue to offer complete access to any video and other evidence the Attorney General’s office might need to complete its independent investigation into the shooting while his office worked on its investigation into the shooting.