MANCHESTER — A judge is considering whether the public will get to see a surveillance recording of the tasing and arrest of a homeless man in the city library last September.
The Union Leader has taken the city of Manchester to court to obtain a copy of a library surveillance video that captured the arrest of Clifford Etadafimue on Sept. 24. A Nigerian immigrant, Etadafimue has been arrested several times in Manchester and Nashua for nonviolent crimes.
They include refusing to leave the hospital in cold weather.
The city said the videotape would amount to an invasion of Etadafimue’s privacy, and that Etadafimue, who may be mentally incompetent, would be stigmatized by the release.
But during a hearing Wednesday at Hillsborough County Superior Court, a judge noted the surveillance tape is evidence that will likely end up before a jury.
“There’s no privacy interest at that point. Why is a privacy interest at this point that different?” said Superior Court Judge Larry Smukler.
The day after his arrest, Manchester police issued a news release that emphasized Etadafimue’s height — 7 feet, 2 inches — and said a police officer was injured trying to restrain him.
He had been arrested four other times at Elliot Hospital in Manchester, complaining he did not want to leave because of the cold weather.
Subsequent reporting by the New Hampshire Union Leader found that he was one of 75 teenagers and young adults, most from Africa, brought to the United States to play basketball. While he played at prep schools, junior colleges and other teams, a career never materialized.
The person who brought him to the United States, former Charlotte, N.C., police officer Evelyn Mack, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor aliens in federal court.
Etadafimue faces misdemeanor charges in both Manchester and Nashua. His lawyers have said he may be mentally incompetent, and a competency hearing is scheduled for Feb. 12 in Manchester District Court. A competency hearing is scheduled for April 17 in Nashua.
During the half-hour hearing on Wednesday, the Union Leader’s lawyer said the video will inform the public of a matter of public interest — a police arrest in a public building.
“How the Manchester police deal with someone who has mental health issues, who may be (mentally) incompetent, and who is homeless is exactly what the public has a right to see,” said Kathleen Sullivan, who represents the Union Leader.
But City Solicitor Emily Rice asked Smukler to weigh several factors, including whether he is competent to stand trial and his right to privacy.
Releasing the video before his trial would open Etadafimue to all sorts of shame and humiliation, Rice said.
“What we’re talking about is whether or not the public has a right to observe the arrest of a homeless, mentally ill victim of human trafficking in the library when his case is still pending. The answer is no,” Rice said.
“To the extent the public has a right to know, the public already knows a lot about it,” she said.
Smukler did not rule from the bench, and he has to consider a request from the city to review the video in private.
In a text exchange with the Union Leader, Etadafimue said he is still living in New Hampshire, but is no longer at the Southern New Hampshire Rescue Mission in Nashua. He declined to give more specifics.
He did say he has never obtained access to his car and the papers inside it, which he said had been impounded by police.