Dash cam video in 'rogue' Butler County deputy case released - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Dash cam video in 'rogue' Butler County deputy case released

A still image taken from Butler County Sheriff's Corporal Mike Brockman's dash camera video. A still image taken from Butler County Sheriff's Corporal Mike Brockman's dash camera video.
BUTLER COUNTY, OH (FOX19) -

On Dec. 12, 2014, Corporal Mike Brockman had the only Butler County Sheriff’s cruiser with a dash camera. Luckily for Kevin Gray and Chris Ebbing, the pair would have a witness when Deputy Jasen Hatfield stopped them that night. 

Turns out, there was no video. That’s what the sheriff’s office told Gray’s attorney in two separate letters after the arrest.

The truth was: there was a video, stored in a deputy’s basement for more than a year.

“IT WAS 13 SECONDS. WE’RE TALKING 13 SECONDS FOR ALL THAT TO HAPPEN”

Following months of attempts to find video of the night of the Hatfield traffic stop, the only evidence Gray could find was radio dispatch calls between Deputy Jasen Hatfield and Butler County dispatchers. In the recordings, Hatfield radios in the traffic stop around 2:53 a.m.

Hatfield claimed in his incident report that Gray had made an illegal U-turn on Pyramid Hill Road in Hamilton, then made several marked lane violations as he headed north. Hatfield also arrested Gray on a drunk driving charge.

A Butler County jury later acquitted Gray of the charges.

Hatfield stopped Gray in a used car lot’s parking lot. The deputy testified he radioed the stop in as he was pulling over Gray’s Camaro. Hatfield told dispatchers he would get the tag number “here in a second,” the recordings show.

The dispatch recordings show it took 15 seconds between Hatfield telling dispatchers he’d call in the tag number “here in a second” to the call where he tells dispatchers, “I got one fighting with me.”

But, Hatfield testified that walked up to Gray’s door—on the driver’s side—where he spent “20, 30 seconds” asking for Gray’s license and where he noticed a “very strong odor of alcohol and marijuana” coming from inside Gray’s car, the court transcript shows.

Gray and Ebbing testified that Hatfield walked up to the passenger’s side first and asked Ebbing for his license, “I asked him what the charge was,” Ebbing told FOX19 NOW’s Jody Barr in an interview last week.

“’Give me your i.d.,’” Ebbing quotes Hatfield as saying, “What’s the charge,” Ebbing said he asked Hatfield, who he said, was standing inside the passenger door at the time. “I haven’t done anything, what’s the charge,” Ebbing said he asked Hatfield again.

“He says, ‘you’re not wearing your seatbelt.’ He jerks me out of the car like this, he’s on my back now, my feet are still in the car,” Ebbing said.

Hatfield wrote in his report and testified during Gray’s trial that Ebbing was fighting with him as he tried to cuff him. Both Gray and Ebbing said Hatfield lied and “fabricated” that testimony. Both denied Ebbing fought or resisted Hatfield’s attempt to cuff him.

“That’s not enough time for his story to happen,” Ebbing told FOX19 NOW.

“It’s a 13 second interval that he’s calling for back up, yet his whole story and incident report says that he had conversations with me, that I had made statements to him before that my passenger became belligerent,” Gray said.

“The entire incident that night was completely caused and fabricated by Deputy Hatfield.

THE VIDEO IS THERE, THE AUDIO IS NOT

It wasn’t until the first day of Gray’s trial in February that anyone outside the Butler County Sheriff’s Office or the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office knew a dash camera video from that night existed.

Gray’s brother, Kyle, tells FOX19 NOW he overheard a conversation between the deputies in the hallway outside the courtroom during a break, discussing a video tape recorded in Corporal Mike Brockman’s cruiser.

Kyle Gray said he relayed that information to his brother’s attorney.

The defense, prosecution and the judge met at the judge’s bench to discuss the newly-discovered videotape, the transcript shows. Assistant prosecutor David Kash was adamant there was no video from the stop, according to the transcript.

“This case has been going on for 14 months and this is the first time I've heard a whisper of a video out of Brockman's car,” Gray’s attorney Jeff Meadows tells the judge. “There's no video. Brockman will tell you I can't produce the video. There's no video,” Kash tells the judge.

“I will present as an officer of the court, there is no video,” Kash is quoted as saying in the transcript.

The next day, Brockman delivered the tape to prosecutor Kash, court transcripts show. Gray’s attorney questioned Brockman on the stand, but the transcripts show the jury never heard the discussions of exactly where the tape was stored between the stop and the trial.

Gray’s legal team said the tape was stored in Brockman’s basement and never logged into evidence. Following the trial, Brockman was written up for not logging the tape into evidence, personnel records provided by the sheriff’s office show.

“Were there any events afterwards that you were able to determine to be of any significance or importance,” assistant prosecutor David Kash asked Brockman, who was seated at the witness stand. “No,” Brockman replied, “I would have disclosed that a long time ago.”

The VHS tape was entered as State’s Evidence #8 and jury watched it. The recording did not have audio recording, although the recorder was equipped to capture audio.

“What about the audio,” Kash asked Brockman, “Does that equipment capture audio?” “I specifically looked -- I wanted the audio,” Brockman testified. That was the only thing that would have been valuable because of Mr. Gray and what he said in the back, which there's a microphone back there. And, when it was installed from the other car up until the car I have now, it wasn't set correctly,” Brockman told the jury

“I've since corrected it, which that's a little bit over my head. But the audio was off,” Brockman testified.  Brockman did not provide a date for when he said he made the repairs to the microphone inside his cruiser.

On Dec. 20, the Butler County Clerk of Court’s Office allowed FOX19 NOW to make a copy of the Brockman evidence tape. The tape contained more traffic stops following Gray’s. The next stop on the tape, recorded the next day, recorded clear audio as Brockman responded to a crash in the county.

“SIX AND A HALF MINUTES GONE; JUST DISAPPEARED”

There was something else on the Brockman tape that Gray’s side said they never got the sheriff’s office to explain: what happened to six minutes and 23 seconds of video went. It appeared to Gray’s legal team the tape had been “edited, manipulated or destroyed,” Gray said.

The recording shows Brockman responding to Hatfield’s radio call of, “I got one fighting with me.” Brockman was running lights and sirens as he sped through Hamilton to get to the scene.

The recording shows Brockman pull up to the used car lot where two other cruisers are parked with lights flashing. Brockman’s cruiser parks on scene at 2:56:30 a.m., the recording shows. At 3:00:00 a.m., you can see the cruiser rock, seeming to indicate someone has sat down inside.

Gray was placed in the back of Brockman’s cruiser at some point during the stop.

At 3:00:06, the video stops recording and the screen turns blue. Two seconds later, the video reappears and the clock reads 3:06:17. There is no indication of where more than six minutes of video went.

“I then had a conversation with Mr. Gray while he was in the back of Corporal Brockman's vehicle,” Hatfield testified during Gray’s trial. It was in this conversation Hatfield told the jury he gathered the evidence needed to charge Gray with drunken driving.

“I explained to him what was going on. I was intimately close to him, within a foot and a half, of speaking to him,” Hatfield testified. “While I was talking to him, Corporal Brockman had the heat turned up in his cruiser and the confined space in the back of the patrol car with the partition, I then realized at least coming from the [sic] Mr. Gray, that the heavy odor of the alcoholic beverage was coming from him, as I spoke to him inside while he was in the back of Corporal Brockman's vehicle. His speech was slurred,” Hatfield said.

“I again indicated the glassy, bloodshot eyes. I asked him if he had been drinking that evening and he indicated to me that he had had five or six drinks,” Hatfield told the jury.

“Based on my training and experience, my observations of Mr. Gray, his admission to drinking, the heavy odor of the alcoholic beverage, I had enough probable cause at that point to believe that he was intoxicated, just in speaking with him in the short time that I did. It doesn't take much common sense to know when someone's intoxicated,” Hatfield testified.

Gray testified Hatfield never had a conversation with him inside Brockman’s cruiser and contends the missing portion of tape would have proven that.

We requested Brockman and Hatfield’s personnel files, looking for what the sheriff’s office did to investigate the tape and allegations it might have been edited. The file shows Brockman received a “parties counseled” punishment on Feb. 2, 2016 for not logging the video into evidence.

The sheriff’s office files do not show that the allegations of the recording being edited or manipulated was ever investigated by the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.

On Dec. 8, we found Hatfield at a Butler County courthouse and questioned him about the allegations and the Kevin Gray stop. Hatfield only offered a “No comment,” to each of our questions. We e-mailed an interview request to Hatfield’s attorney, Rob Croskery. Croskery responded, agreeing to an interview, but never responded to our request to set a date and time to conduct the interview.

We again requested interviews with Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones, Deputies Jasen Hatfield and Mike Brockman through the sheriff’s administration offices, but the sheriff’s office did not respond to our most recent request.

Kevin Gray’s federal civil rights lawsuit against Butler, Hatfield and Brockman is set for a preliminary hearing in March.  

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