Connecticut Lawmaker Calls for More Privacy for Victims

September 20, 2013

The horrifying video remains online for anyone to see: surveillance camera footage of 78-year-old Angel Arces Torres getting struck by a car, thrown into the air and landing critically injured on a street in Hartford in 2008. He would die from his injuries a year later.

His son, Angel Arce, a Democratic state representative from Hartford, told a state crime records task force Wednesday that the video continues to traumatize him and his family, and he urged the panel to consider how crime victims and their families are affected by the release of law enforcement records.

“This victimizes families,” Arce told the Task Force on Victim Privacy and the Public’s Right to Know, which he co-chairs. “This puts families through hell and back. … You don’t do this to families. They’re hurting enough as it is.”

The task force was created in response to requests for law enforcement records related to the Newtown school shootings in December that killed 20 first-graders and six educators. It was established as part of a last-minute bill approved this year to block the public release of crime scene photos and video evidence from the Newtown massacre and other homicides.

The task force will be submitting recommendations to state lawmakers in January on how to balance victim privacy under the state Freedom of Information Act with the public’s right to know when making decisions about releasing records.

Arce had to stop talking a few times as he became emotional about his father. He left the room when a video of the accident was shown.

Hartford police released the video in an effort to get information from the public about the hit-and-run. The driver was eventually arrested, convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The footage sparked public outrage when it was released because it shows Torres lying wounded and helpless in the street while cars continue passing him and no one rushes to help him. Police later said several people did call 911.

Arce also criticized the media as being coldhearted and invading his privacy by taking photos of him and his families grieving outside a hospital, bothering him inside a church during his father’s funeral and taking photos at the cemetery during the burial.

“We had no privacy, no privacy at all,” he said.

He also said he didn’t want any other families, including those of the Sandy Hook Elementary School victims, to go through what he has been through.

“We need to protect them,” he said.

The task force scheduled hearings to get public input on the issue for Oct. 1 in Hartford at 2550 Main St., Oct. 9 in the Bridgeport City Council chambers and Oct. 16 at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

Legislative researchers also gave a presentation to the task force Wednesday about Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act and other states’ open records laws dealing with autopsy photos, crime scene photos and other law enforcement records. They said it appears states and courts have been recognizing victim privacy rights more frequently in recent years.

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