May 28, 2021
Yesterday I went to court to support Ethan Calton’s mother Gwynne Miller King in her quest for answers about her son’s death. After six months of asking both Sheriff Chris Francis and District Attorney Ted Bell to see the body cam footage of the death of her son by Officer Tyler Greene during an arrest she finally had no choice but to resort to legal action through the court.
Superior Court Judge William Wood presided over the hearing that asked for the video to be available to the family for viewing. Sheriff Francis told the judge that the SBI told him to withhold the video from the family during the investigation. Mrs. King who had been in frequent communication with the SBI officer involved in the case was never told by him that they were requesting that the video be withheld from her.
In the meantime, Sheriff Francis had done an on air news interview stating that Ethan Calton was aggressive with the three officers on the scene and “pulled” a gun on them during the arrest which resulted in his shooting death by Officer Greene. Witnesses on the scene disputed his statement saying that Ethan did not in fact even touch his gun. It was holstered on his hip. They said Officer Greene shot Ethan in the back killing him with one shot. After he fell, an officer removed the gun from the holster and placed it on the ground beside him.
Mrs. King continued to ask questions since the witnesses accounts differed so greatly from the Sheriff’s public statement and her son had made several statements before his death that certain Deputy’s were going to kill him. The Sheriff never at any time publicly admitted that Officer Greene had in fact shot Ethan in the back.
When the autopsy results came back the family then found that Ethan was not only shot in the back but it was at point blank range with the muzzle pressed so tightly against his back it bruised the skin and power residue was only found inside the wound. Again she asked to see the body cam footage and was denied and told that the SBI investigation was still on going. She point blank asked if in fact Ethan had pulled a gun on the officers why was the investigation taking so long and why could she not see the video?
It was at this point that the questions and doubts began to grow ever bigger. If this was a cut and dry defensive shooting by Officer Greene why was the investigation taking so long? If the body cam footage showed that why deny the family closure on these doubts? Why was Sheriff Francis apparently stonewalling the family? It was discovered by the family that Officer Greene had allegedly been involved in several other shootings with one surviving victim even talking to the family about it.
So many questions being left unanswered for Ethan’s mother and his family to try and live with. Weeks turned into months. Months of not sleeping, crying over the least little thing, begging God in prayer to help with answers and to bring peace to the family. Recently Ethan’s youngest child celebrated his first birthday. She knew she must act to either bring closure in this matter or to begin the long road for justice for Ethan. A lawsuit was filed for release of the video.
In court it was disclosed not only that the body cam footage was only four minutes and forty eight seconds (4:48) long but that the SBI had wrapped up their investigation and presented it to DA Ted Bell at two pm the previous afternoon before the hearing. The judge asked specifically if that was all the footage available from the three officers on the scene. Sheriff Francis said yes that only one officer had a body cam turned on and it was cut off when he entered the patrol car to call after the shooting occurred.
Ethan’s mother gasped as she realized how brief the video actually was. All this anguish and grief, silence and secrecy over four minutes and forty eight seconds? The county attorney Richard Williams asked the court for permission to blur or cover the faces of the officers and victim before the possibility of public release of the video if no charges were filed. The judge agreed to this.
He then stated that DA Ted Bell had until June 30th to have the video ready for public release and that he preferred for the family to see the video “sooner rather than later.” He read his ruling out loud in the courtroom and then gave written copies to Mr. Williams, Mr. Bell, and Mr. Labreche.
Ethan’s mother felt she was no closer to seeing the video than she had been but at least the DA knew he had a deadline to meet. She was hopeful that as hard as it would be to watch the death of her son on video it would at least provide some answers.
She has never tried to defend Ethan’s choices in life. She knew her son was flawed and that he had made several poor judgment calls in the past. She has never tried to paint him in any other light except for who he was to her. His criminal past being what it was he was still a father, a husband, a son, a brother, a friend, and however flawed, a beloved child of God and as such she feels that her questions should be answered.
Hopefully this will be resolved soon and she will either begin the long journey to peace or the long road for justice. Either way making a mother and a family suffer for this long and resort to the expense of legal representation for 4 minutes and 48 seconds of video that could clear all this up is cruel and unnecessary.
Legislators in Raleigh are trying to change the law to allow these video to be seen by the family in a timely manner. That being said it will not matter if our local law enforcement is not required to wear or turn on body cameras on all calls.
My thoughts and prayers are with the family of Ethan Calton who no matter the outcome have lost someone they loved very much in a very tragic way. I hope that DA Ted Bell will see fit to end this family’s anguish in Judge Woods words “sooner than later” but for now it continues to be sleepless nights and painful days for all who loved Ethan.
To watch video from WLOS concerning this story click here.