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'We deserve to know' | Family upset after judge seals KPD video of in-custody death

The City of Knoxville planned to release video of Robert Nathan Bailey's time in police custody, but said a judge's order prevented it from doing so.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The family of a man who died in Knoxville Police custody last week said they have more questions after reviewing partial video of his arrest before a court order prevented the city from further releasing the footage, their attorney said.

In a statement from attorney Lance Baker, Robert Nathan Bailey's family said nothing in the partial body and in-car camera video they reviewed at the invitation of the city Thursday "even hinted at what might have caused his death." 

The statement said the city attorney told Baker there is 12 minutes of additional footage the family should have been allowed to watch, but Knox County District Attorney Charme Allen's office sought and received a court order sealing the footage before they could.

"For our family, there is no possible justification for hiding what happened to Robert Nathan and it is simply wrong to keep his family in the dark, especially as we are in shock, grieving and preparing for Robert Nathan’s funeral service tomorrow," the family's statement said Friday.

Allen said ethical rules prohibit the release of evidence to the public while the investigation is ongoing. Allen said she has been in contact with the Bailey family's lawyer and has no intention of withholding information from them.

"Mr. Bailey and his family deserve a thorough and impartial investigation. That is why the TBI is investigating the case," Allen said in a statement to 10News Friday. "The court’s order prohibits the mayor of Knoxville and other officials, whose employees are potential subjects of the investigation, from releasing information publicly that could affect the integrity of the investigation."

She said the information would be released to the public "at the appropriate time." 

City of Knoxville spokesperson Kristin Farley said Friday, "Clearly city leaders are frustrated, as it as it was our intention to release this video to the family and the public this week."

Farley said as soon as the city realized there was additional footage of Bailey the family had not reviewed, it began a plan to notify the family's attorney. "The order from the criminal court interrupted that plan," Farley said.

A KPD officer pulled Bailey over shortly after midnight Jan. 6 in the Linden Avenue and Cherry Street area, KPD said. They said he had outstanding warrants for misdemeanor domestic assault and violation of probation for an original charge of schedule II drug violations. Officers took him into custody without incident and brought him to the Roger D. Wilson Detention Facility in a KPD transportation wagon, a spokesperson said. 

While in the transportation wagon at the detention facility, police said he became unresponsive. He received medical attention at the scene and was brought by ambulance to UT Medical Center where he was pronounced dead, authorities said. 

KPD asked the TBI to investigate. A TBI spokesperson said, "Preliminary information indicates that foul play was not involved. However, the investigation remains active and ongoing."

 Farley said representatives from the city met with Bailey's mother, Ruth, Thursday and offered "our deepest condolences." 

Farley said the family reviewed nearly an hour and a half of footage and the city planned to release the video to the public on Friday until receiving the order from Judge Steven Sword preventing its disclosure. 

"It has been over a week since our beloved Robert Nathan died in police custody and we have no idea what happened, or even his cause of death; no one with that information will tell us," the family's statement said. "Surely, as his family, we deserve to know the truth."