An independent group investigating the July 2016 murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich is suing the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser for information connected to the murder investigation.
The Profiling Project filed the lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court Wednesday morning, asserting that MPD has mismanaged the murder investigation. The group said that MPD’s stonewalling is unjustified.
“The release of this crucial material will help bring peace to the victim’s family, and it will help to either confirm or refute the various theories that swirl about this important murder case,” Washington, D.C. lobbyist and attorney Jack Burkman, who is leading The Profiling Project, asserted in court documents obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation (TheDCNF).
ABC7 News asked MPD Chief Peter Newsham about the lawsuit, and posted the following response to Twitter.
— Scott Taylor ABC 7 (@ScottTaylorTV) May 31, 2017
The complaint for injunctive and declaratory relief requests the disclosure of three specific pieces of information in the case; surveillance video footage from a nearby second-floor camera, the Medical Examiner’s report, and the forensic ballistic report.
Rich, 27, was the voter expansion data director at the DNC, according to Roll Call, and had been employed for two years. Rich also worked on a computer application to help voters locate polling stations, and had just accepted a job with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
According to MPD reports, officers patrolling the Bloomingdale neighborhood heard gunshots around 4:20 a.m. on the morning of July 10, 2016. Officers discovered a “conscious and breathing” Rich at 2100 Flagler Place in northwest Washington, D.C.
Police have not yet solved the case, and Burkman asserts that the case has gone cold.
“MPD began their investigation of the Seth Rich murder on July 12, 2016 and has not released any new information since October 16, 2016,” Burkman asserted. “The case is now clearly a cold case.”
The Profiling Project specifically demanded the release of surveillance footage from a second-floor camera on the Flagler Market, which is just a block north of the murder scene.
Burkman pushed back against the police department’s assertion that release of the information would impede their investigation .
“MPD essentially terminated their efforts in late October 2016. As such, the release of the desired information would not and could not harm MPD’s efforts in any way, as there is no continuing effort,” he argued in the complaint.
MPD has a history of regularly releasing surveillance video to the public pertaining to unsolved criminal investigations. A quick look at the police department’s YouTube channel reveals that they post video footage in cases involving a person of interest. MPD has published 12 videos in the last week alone, to include unsolved murder investigations. Their habit for transparency with unsolved cases raises the question as to why they’ve been so tight-lipped about the Rich case.
MPD surmised that Rich was a victim of a botched robbery (robberies and unsolved acts of violence make up the lion’s share of released MPD videos). Police said that they found his wallet, credit cards and cellphone on his body. The band of his wristwatch was torn but not broken. The current theory maintains that the shooters panicked after shooting Rich and immediately fled the scene.
Burkman teamed up with professors and student volunteers from George Washington University’s Student Association for Forensic Psychology to start The Profiling Project. He said that the group is working with independent professionals on the case.
While Burkman held a press conference with the parents of Seth Rich in November, he is no longer connected to the family.
“The family would like to reiterate that Jack Burkman has no connection to the family, does not represent them or their wishes and that his efforts are completely independent,” Brad Bauman a spokesman for the family, told TheDCNF. “The family remains completely confident in the Metropolitan Police Department’s handling of the case and ability to solve Seth’s murder.”
Despite the confidence, the family itself has called on police to publicize details of the murder investigation after 10 months of mystery. (RELATED: Family of Seth Rich Demands That Police Release Information To The Public)
In January, Burkman told TheDCNF that he was representing the Rich family in a pro-bono capacity.
“The objective here really is just to get closure for this family,” Burkman said. This is a young kid in our profession. This could have happened to any of the young people who work for me.”
“While the family still have confidence in the Metropolitan Police Department’s ability to investigate Seth’s murder, of course, they are frustrated with the lack of evidence, leads and credible information about the case,” Bauman told TheDCNF last week. “They desperately want to find Seth’s murderers and bring them to justice as quickly as possible.”
The family wants answers and has been frustrated by the wide range of theories surrounding their son’s death.
Fox News retracted a story May 23 that claimed Rich may have been behind a breach of the DNC’s email servers, where Wikileaks obtained thousands of internal email communications that it leaked to the public.
Rod Wheeler, a Washington-based private investigator that the Rich family agreed to hire at the behest of a wealthy friend, suggested that there was tangible evidence that Rich had communicated with WikiLeaks before his death. The next day, Wheeler seemed to backtrack on those claims, and local police said that his assertions were “unfounded.”
The Rich family, according to the New York Times, now regrets okaying the hire of Wheeler, and has publicly objected to his claims.
Burkman, asserting that the records sought are specific to the MPD’s handling of the murder investigation and are crucial to the public’s understanding of the MPD’s conduct during its investigation, staged a press conference outside of MPD headquarters in Downtown Washington, D.C. at 2 pm ET Wednesday.
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