St. Anthony releases Castile phone messages

In response to a data request from public records researcher Tony Webster, St. Anthony released voicemails left for the police department following the killing of Philando Castile in July 2016. 

The city sent about 80 voicemails as part of a June data dump of over 400 files, the majority being emails, according to Webster.

On July 4 Webster published a few of the voicemails on his blog, www.tonywebster.com.  

“The city has been working on a broad data request submitted by Mr. Webster for about two years,” St. Anthony City Manager Mark Casey said in a statement responding to a request for comment.

 

Castile voicemails

Webster, who is also a freelance web engineer and journalist, has pursued St. Anthony records since Castile was shot to death by a St. Anthony police officer during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights two years ago. His blog has been a consistent source of information on the shooting since it occurred.

Webster wrote on his blog about 10 voicemails from the 80 or so released, saying the messages were left by community members, the Hennepin County Sheriff, journalists, and St. Anthony’s insurer. 

Each voicemail is accompanied with a transcript and summary. In a message from Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, according to Webster, Stanek offers his support and perspective to the police department. 

“The media comes and goes. Others like BLM (Black Lives Matter), well, they’ve got different agendas,” Stanek said. 

A Star Tribune reporter, who Webster said expresses “frustration,” said in a voicemail that she was having difficulty obtaining public data from the police. “You know there’s no exemption for there being an investigation underway,” she said. 

In other voicemails that Webster said are from community members, a caller refers to Castile’s killing as a public lynching. Another, who stated she is white, says she knows her daughter’s friends are frequently stopped and she would like the culture to change. 

Chief Jon Mangseth said during a St. Anthony Police Department open house in June that the department has also received support concerning Castile’s shooting through phone calls, voicemails and email. 

He did not comment on the department’s perspective of the overall response from people immediately following the shooting. 

 

St. Anthony wants document back

In his statement, Casey said the city “inadvertently provided” a document to Webster “that the city views to be non-public data under the Minnesota Data Practices Act.” 

He said the city’s obligation to provide public data is no different from its obligation to keep non-public data private. 

“The city simply requested Mr. Webster return the set of data so the non-public data could be removed and a rectified set of data be provided in its place,” said Casey.

In Webster’s response to the city, which he tweeted on July 2, he said he “respectfully” declines to return the data set. 

Webster said the document is an “Officer Safety Advisory” email that was lawfully obtained and that the Data Practice Act by which he made the request does not have any “clawback remedy” for governments. 

“Any relief sought by the City would be an unconstitutional prior restraint in violation of the Minnesota and United States Constitution,” said Webster, adding his publication of the document, which he refers to as the “Advisory,” is protected by the First Amdentent.

Webster said his response might be different if the Advisory contained private personal data or data on individuals. He said he has received and protected private data from previous releases. In his blog post about the published voicemails, Webster redacts and censors personal information like phone numbers. 

On Twitter, Webster said he will release the Advisory email “in due course.”

 

– Solomon Gustavo can be reached at sgustavo@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815

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