September 17, 2021, FLCGA Research Assistant CD Davidson-Hiers
The Florida Center for Government Accountability helped a reporter obtain a 30-year-old tape of a police officer’s last recorded words before the officer was killed on duty.
Miami Springs Police Officer Charles Stafford was shot during a traffic stop in 1991, the only Miami Springs officer to die in the line of duty, according to the Miami Herald.
The man who killed him admitted to the shooting, but said it was in self-defense, according to the Herald. Until recently, the details surrounding Stafford’s death remained buried.
Theo Karantsalis, a freelance reporter for the Herald, first began covering the officer’s murder in 2011, during a 20-year memorial service. He remained interested in the case but didn’t have access to all the files.
Karantsalis contacted Michael Barfield, FLCGA’s director of public access, for help locating the records. Barfield suggested Karantsalis make a public records request to the prosecutor’s office.
“The prosecutor still had the record and made it available to the reporter, who then did the story,” Barfield said.
Karantsalis said he believed the audio of the radio call, Stafford’s last, was taken from a tape recording “buried in a warehouse somewhere” and turned into an MP3 file for him to listen to.
In June, Karantsalis wrote an article for the Herald using the newly obtained records, including archived depositions and radio transcripts.
“It gets personal,” he said about covering the story for so long. “Without the help of FLCGA, I never would have gotten that audio.”
The Miami Herald story can be found here.