WILMINGTON (WECT/Port City Daily) — Body cameras can serve as a tool to shed light on law enforcement interactions with the public, but the family of a man found dead on TRU Colors’ property last month said footage from police has prompted even more questions as to what happened in the 24 hours leading up to his death.
Val Flor D’Auvray’s family said Wilmington police reported seeing their son and brother at Coastal Horizons, where he was an outpatient, prior to his death. Despite attempting to file a missing persons report days before, the family was not immediately notified of the sighting. Originally, the family was told the interaction occurred around 2:30 a.m. on April 18, but the footage Val D’Auvray, the deceased’s father, said he was shown was from the day before.
Wilmington Police Department confirmed officers responded to a call April 17 involving D’Auvray but declined to comment further citing the “ongoing investigation.”
In North Carolina, body camera footage is not considered a public record due to a state law that prevents police from releasing video without a court order. This includes requests from the media; however, exceptions to this rule are made for family or the “representative” of an adult in the video.
“The head of the custodial law enforcement agency may only disclose a recording to the following: … A personal representative of a deceased person whose image or voice is in the recording,” the law reads, in part.
Val D’Auvray said at first he was led to believe it was highly unlikely he would ever have a chance to review the footage, but more than a month later, he said the internal affairs department obliged. (WPD would not confirm the father viewed the tapes.) Four recordings — each lasting around 10 minutes — paint a different picture of some of his son’s last moments than initially described by law enforcement.
“That is showing the complete opposite of what we’ve been told for over a month now,” brother Xan D’Auvray said. “I want the whole world to see this because the whole world needs to know something’s going on.”
Val D’Auvray said he prepared to witness his son acting delusional, paranoid and attempting to break into the building, based on what he was told by a detective. Instead, what he described seeing was his son sitting down, slightly agitated but appearing sober, and speaking clearly about his state of fear. He recalled his son saying in the video he was “just running toward the lighted area for safety.”
“The strange thing about the video is there’s no reason why that shouldn’t be made public or to the family because the police were thoroughly professional, and my son was very cooperative,” Val D’Auvray said. “The only thing that it does do is shed just more mystery and questions and certainly with possibilities of foul play, since he was being chased.”
In the video, Val D’Auvray said his son told officers two men were after him, one on foot and another in a car attempting to cut him off. When officers asked if the men had weapons, Val D’Auvray said his son recalled possibly seeing a bat, but it was hard to tell in the dark while running.
“That really made me stop the video and ask them to rewind it,” Val D’Auvray said. “And we all looked at each other … And just that alone raises more questions.”
It was also clear, D’Auvray said, that his son was not breaking and entering, as was reported by the same detective.
Other discrepancies, he said, also became apparent. The footage showed his son fully clothed, wearing a colorful Sublime T-shirt his brothers had bought him and new “retro” shoes from his father, Val D’Auvray described. The father thought from past conversations with WPD that his son would be half-clothed. By the time his body was found, he was without his shirt, backpack or the new sneakers, leading the family to question once again what happened between his last recorded moments and his fatal head injury.
Finally, the family was allegedly told police offered to take Val to the hospital and he refused.
“My dad watched the whole entire video. No one once mentioned a single thing about taking him to the hospital,” Xan D’Auvray said. “Was this just a complete and blatant lie? Is there another video that we’re just completely not being shown? What is really going on here?”
Val D’Auvray said viewing the video has alleviated some of the angst he had for a month, wondering if his son was completely out of control when police arrived.
“It broke my heart,” he said. “You know, my heart breaks every day, when I think about it but, you know, you could say that I was actually proud of him because he was honest and sincere.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, the family was unaware whether the death is still under investigation but said police had only restated the death was ruled an accident. The father said he requested a meeting with Chief Donny Williams and Captain Thomas Tillman but has not heard back.
This report was created in partnership with WECT.