Ohio residents are pleading with local media outlets to exercise restraint in putting out video any footage that shows the shooting death of Sonny Kim, a Cincinnati police officer who was ambushed and killed in June by a man who said he wanted to commit “suicide by cop.”
Video footage from a dashboard camera is said to have captured Kim’s final moments, and some media outlets, including the Cincinnati Enquirer, have asked to review the video, as is allowed by Ohio’s sunshine law. In an op-ed Monday, the Enquirer’s editorial board said reviewing the footage was necessary to fully understand what transpired.
“[It] is our duty to ask for the video footage,” the paper wrote. “It provides a crucial perspective of the incident.”
A rapidly growing petition launched by residents asks media outlets not to air or print images from the video, saying such a decision would be sensationalistic and of no intrinsic public value. The petitioners are promising a boycott of all news outlets -- and their sponsors -- should they show the footage.
“While this video has limited training value for law enforcement, there is no justifiable purpose to air this video to the general public. The only reason any news outlet would want to air this video is to boost their ratings and generate revenue$. Imagine for just a moment how devastating it would be for the Kim family, their children and close friends to view Sonny in his final dying moments.”
The petition, which gained more than 1,500 signatures in a day, targets the Enquirer and a number of local TV stations in addition to the four national broadcasters, ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox. Email addresses and phone numbers of the stations’ news directors are also included in the petition.
In an impassioned email to Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, Kim’s widow, Jessica Kim, begged city officials not to release the video. “For my kids, witnessing their father lying helplessly on the ground will only add to the devastation that they have already felt,” she wrote, as WLWT5 reported.
The conflict raises questions about the line between the public’s right to know and a family’s right to privacy. Some outlets, such as Fox 19 Now, have already said they would honor Jessica’s wishes and not air the footage should they obtain it.
Meanwhile, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters has refused to release the video on the grounds that it is part of an active investigation, but his office could be compelled to release it if a state court determines the footage to be a matter of public record.
Kim, a 27-year veteran of the force, was ambushed and killed last month in the city’s Madisonville neighborhood, where he was responding to a call. Kim’s killer, Trepierre Hummons, was also killed in the incident. The officer has been heralded as a hero by the community and local officials.
Read the full petition here.