INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. — A court hearing was held Tuesday to determine whether surveillance video from a fatal hospital shooting inside an Indian River County hospital should be released to the public.
Body camera footage has already been released by the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office showing a fatal confrontation one month ago between a 29 year-old man in mental distress and deputies who said the man had come after them with a raised pair of scissors in the emergency room at the Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital.
Deputies, in fear for their life, opened fire, killing the man.
In a court hearing on Zoom Tuesday, an attorney for the sheriff’s office argued the hospital should release its own internal video documenting the incident.
"This is not something the sheriff is looking to release for some salacious content or because of some tabloid interest," said attorney Adam Fetterman.
Cleveland Clinic’s legal team countered that federal laws and the state’s Mental Health Act protect the privacy of health records, even for the deceased.
"We have an affirmative obligation to protect the confidentiality of the patient sensitive mental health information, the dignity of the patient," said Cleveland Clinic attorney June Hoffman.
The shooting raised a number of concerns regarding how mental health patients are cared for and transferred.
The hospital has refused to answer many of our questions including how many spaces are available for the intake of mental health patients, who decides when it's okay to move someone to another facility, and if there any policies regarding restraining Baker Act patients.
The Baker Act allows someone to be involuntarily committed if they are deemed to be dangerous to themselves or others.
Tuesday, the judge had some questions for the sheriff’s office.
"Does the sheriff have a duty by law or by moral obligation to not release the video?" asked Judge Janet Croom.
"I would argue that the sheriff has a duty to release the video in the public’s interest so the public can be aware of what occurred," Fetterman answered.
"TThe real question is whether it’s appropriate for widespread public consumption," Hoffman said.
The sheriff released a statement last week that said his officers responded properly, and that "I respect the rule of law and will honor whatever decision our circuit judge issues."
The judge gave no indication when she will rule, only to say her decision will be out shortly.