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Judicial Watch Sues Secret Service for Audio/Visual Recordings Related to Death of Obama’s Chef

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for video recordings relating to the death of the Obamas’ personal chef Tafari Campbell in July 2023 in the Edgartown Great Pond (Judicial Watch Inc. v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (No. 1:23-cv-03194)). Judicial Watch recently uncovered the existence of a Secret Service video tied to the incident in response to a separate public records request.

On August 9, 2023, Judicial Watch submitted a FOIA request to the Secret Service, a component of DHS, seeking copies of:

All audio/visual recordings (including dispatch calls, fixed camera footage, internal USSS communications, and communications with other law enforcement and EMS personnel), USSS emails, incident reports, witness statements, investigative reports, and all other records related to the death of Tafari Campbell on July 23-24, 2023, in the Edgartown Great Pond.

Earlier this month, Judicial Watch received 40 pages of records from the Massachusetts State Police that include a July 24, 2023, homicide/death report written by Mass. State Trooper Dustin Shaw, listing the details of the investigation into Campbell’s death. In the narrative portion Shaw writes:

The following is a summary of my observations of the video footage provided to me from this specific vantage point and is not intended to be an exact depiction of the overall entirety of the surveillance footage from [redacted] On Sunday, July 23, 2023, at approximately:

  • 6:54 PM; two (2) individuals identified as CAMPBELL and [redacted] are observed walking on the boardwalk from the area of the residence, toward the shoreline of Edgartown Great Pond. Both CAMPBELL’S and [redacted] appearance and clothing are consistent with prior descriptions. Once near the shoreline, it appears that CAMPBELL and [redacted] obtain paddleboards and paddles from a small alcove near the shoreline, and subsequently enter the water.
  • 7:40 PM; Secret Service Agent [redacted] (Rescue Swimmer) is observed running from his assigned post towards the shoreline of Edgartown Great Pond, utilizing his handheld radio.
  • 7:42 PM; Agent [redacted] observed running from the shoreline of Edgartown Great Pond, towards the area of the Command Post.
  • 7:43 PM; Agent [redacted] observed running back to shoreline of Edgartown Great Pond.
  • 7:50 PM; USSS boat launches
  • 7:57 PM; USSS vehicle/first responder vehicle arrives to the area of the shoreline of Edgartown Great Pond.
  • 7:58 PM; First Edgartown Police vehicle arrives to the area of the shoreline.
  • 7:59 PM; Second Edgartown Police vehicle arrives to the area of the shoreline.

A request has been made to obtain a copy of the above-described video and is pending its release as of the time of this report.

The records also indicate the presence of Barack Obama for a witness interview in the death investigation. The records, which are heavily redacted, indicate Barack Obama arrived at the emergency response scene via motorcade. A short time later, a cold, wet woman, who was a witness, arrived.

The records also indicate the presence of Barack Obama for a witness interview in the death investigation. The records, which are heavily redacted, indicate Barack Obama arrived at the emergency response scene via motorcade. A short time later, a cold, wet woman, who was a witness, arrived. The next morning, the eyewitness was interviewed in the Obama residence, seemingly with Barack Obama again present. The State Police records show authorities concluded “no foul play” in Campbell’s “accidental” death.

(On October 24, 2023, the Daily Mail obtained the initial 911 call as well as a follow-up call made by Barack Obama’s Secret Service agents after chef Tafari Campbell fell off a paddle board into the Edgartown Great Pond on Martha’s Vineyard.)

“Why is the Secret Service hiding the video that can provide the public more information about the death of Barack Obama’s personal chef,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Secret Service’s involvement in this death investigation had been treated like a state secret until Judicial Watch uncovered it.”

In August 2023, Judicial Watch released records it received from the Edgarton, Mass., Police Department that show the Secret Service reported Obama’s Personal Chef Tafari Campbell missing and that the body was found using sonar. The records also detail that clothing was found separate from the body and that he was not wearing a life vest.

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