By Ely Portillo and Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
Posted: Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010
Responding to a judge’s order Wednesday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police released 911 tapes and radio chatter about interactions former police officer Marcus Jackson had with several women who have accused him of sexually assaulting them.
The communications document some of Jackson’s activities during traffic stops and calls for help in which people later reported that the officer abused his power and, in some cases, fondled, assaulted or falsely arrested them.
In one recording, Jackson can be heard telling a dispatcher he is transporting someone “right around the corner” to the person’s home. The address he gives is the home of a 17-year-old girl who has accused Jackson of forcing her to perform a sex act in his squad car to avoid a traffic ticket.
In another recording, a man speaking Spanish calls 911 to tell authorities that Jackson is “grabbing” his girlfriend during a traffic stop. A 911 interpreter doesn’t tell the dispatcher about the grabbing complaint and seeks to pinpoint the man’s location. In the background, Jackson can twice be heard telling the man to “hang up the phone.” Then, the phone goes dead.
That recording lends heft to a couple’s allegation that Jackson stopped the woman on Dec. 29 and fondled her, then falsely arrested her boyfriend as he tried to call for help.
The recordings of that incident then go on to capture Jackson instructing dispatchers to disregard the man’s request for help because he was already handling it.
Jackson, 26, was arrested and fired last month after several women accused him of sexually assaulting them. He had patrolled Charlotte’s Eastway Division for six months before the allegations were made. In all, six women have come forward alleging misconduct. A grand jury indicted Jackson in three cases and asked prosecutors to investigate the other women’s claims.
Police released the emergency communications Wednesday night after a judge denied CMPD’s request to keep the public records secret.
Police argued in court last week that the release would damage their investigation and prosecution of Jackson, and hurt his right to a fair trial.
The Observer and other media outlets had requested the recordings, arguing that they are public records under N.C. law and that their release was essential to maintaining public trust in the police.
Mecklenburg Superior Court Judge Richard Boner reviewed the tapes privately.
He ruled Wednesday: “The recordings are public record … and therefore subject to disclosure. … The Court finds that the petitioner (CMPD) has failed to prove … that release of the recordings of the 911 call and police radio transmissions will jeopardize the State’s prosecution of Marcus Jackson or the right of Marcus Jackson to receive a fair trial.”
Charlotte attorney Jon Buchan, representing the media, applauded the ruling.
“The legislature clearly intended that 911 tapes and police radio calls be made public unless disclosure would clearly harm the police department’s ability to investigate the crime or the defendant’s right to a fair trial,” he said.
Police did not comment on the ruling Wednesday, but released about 25 minutes of recordings they identified as the communications related to allegations against Jackson.
In one case, a woman calls 911 screaming during a domestic dispute. Then, the phone disconnects. A dispatcher calls back and decides to send an officer – then dispatches Jackson.
When he arrived, Jackson allegedly fondled the woman, according to a police statement.
In the case of the couple who complained against Jackson, the tapes show the man protesting Jackson’s actions and repeatedly trying to get help.
Through a Spanish interpreter, the dispatcher asks the man “What do you need the police for?”
He says: “What’s happening is a black guy stopped my girlfriend, he wants to search her like this, like, you know grabbing.”
The interpreter doesn’t mention the grabbing to dispatchers and struggles to get the man’s precise location.
In the background, a man police identify as Jackson twice orders the caller: “Hang up the phone.”
The call ends.
Jackson radios dispatchers and explains that he had stopped the woman and that her boyfriend soon arrived in a second car to protest the stop. Jackson then urges dispatchers not to send other officers.
“A Hispanic male got out of the car, yelling and cussing, trying to grab her out, telling her I don’t have no reason to stop her,” Jackson explained. “He was calling 911. I don’t know if it went through with dispatch, whatever, but if a call came in, just dupe it into my call.”
Jackson then arrested the boyfriend, police said. Charges against him were dropped, but he may be deported.