Unreleased Secret Service Video Footage Exists of Victim Entering Water and Secret Service Emergency Response
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it received 40 pages of records from the Massachusetts State Police that indicate the presence of Barack Obama for a witness interview in the death investigation of the Obamas’ personal chef Tafari Campbell. 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, again with Barack Obama present. The records also detail the existence of a Secret Service video of Campbell and his paddleboarding companion entering the water, and the Secret Service emergency response in the immediate aftermath of the drowning. The State Police records show they concluded “no foul play” in Campbell’s “accidental” death.
The documents were produced to Judicial Watch in response to a July 25, 2003, Massachusetts Public Records Law request for all records relating to the death of Campbell.
The documents show Campbell’s family told police that he had taken swimming lessons in 2019 but described his ability as “not a great swimmer.” The drowning occurred in Edgartown Great Pond, which Massachusetts Environmental Police estimated “to be approximately seven to eight feet deep.”
The records also show a female eyewitness, an Obama employee whose name is redacted, told state police that she saw Campbell “fall off his paddleboard, began splashing and became extremely panicked, yelling for help and subsequently went underwater very quickly.” By the time she reached his paddleboard, the witness said Campbell had “disappeared into the extremely murky” water.
The records include a July 24, 2023, homicide/death report written by Mass. State Trooper Dustin Shaw that lists the details of the investigation into Campbell’s death. In the narrative portion Shaw writes:
On Sunday, July 23, 2023, at approximately 7:58 PM, [he] … was notified by the Dukes County Regional Emergency Communications Center of a possible drowning incident that originated from a 911 call at [redacted] in the Town of Edgartown, on Martha’s Vineyard, at 7:46 PM. The 911 caller was identified as [redacted], who identified himself as a United States Secret Service Special Agent. I am aware that [redacted] in Edgartown is a residence owned by [redacted]. I was informed that two (2) people on paddleboards had entered the water at Edgartown Great Pond, from the shore of [redacted], and one person was unaccounted for after being witnessed in distress going under the water and never resurfacing.
I located EFD [Edgartown Fire Dept.] Chief Schaeffer, and he informed me that two (2) paddleboarders launched two (2) separate paddleboards from the shoreline at [redacted] in Edgartown. Tafari CAMPBELL (DOB [redacted]) was identified as the missing paddleboarder and [redacted] (DOB [redacted]) was identified as the surviving paddleboarder. I was informed that CAMPBELL is the personal Chef of [redacted] and his family, and [redacted] is a staff member of [redacted], thus the reason they were both at the [redacted] residence prior to the incident.
EFD [Edgartown Fire Dept.] Chief Schaeffer went on to explain that CAMPBELL and [redacted] were paddleboarding together when [redacted] observed CAMPBELL on the board, in the standing position and suddenly lose his balance and enter the water, and struggle to stay above water. Chief Schaeffer informed me that [redacted] observed CAMPBELL go under the water, and never resurface. [Redacted] reportedly subsequently paddled back to shore to [redacted] and alerted a member of the U.S. Secret Service at a nearby security post. I was informed that USSS Special Agent [redacted] called 911 and reported the incident to the Dukes County Sheriff’s Department Regional Communications Center. Simultaneously, U.S. Secret Service Rescue Swimmers immediately deployed from the shore at [redacted] and began searching the immediate area and underwater for CAMPBELL, subsequently not locating him.
Campbell was … reported to be wearing a black tee-shirt, black shorts, and a black baseball cap at the time he entered the water…. I was informed that both CAMPBELL and [redacted] paddleboards had been recovered in separate locations along the shorelines on Turkeyland Cove, approximately several hundred yards from one another.
At approximately 8:40PM [redacted]’s motorcade arrived at the ICP [incident command post] and I was introduced to [redacted]. I … along with EFD [Edgartown Fire Dept.] Chief Schaeffer briefed [redacted] on the situation thus far, as well as the search and rescue efforts currently underway. A short time later, [redacted] arrived at the ICP and I was introduced to her. I observed that [redacted] was visibly emotional and was shaking from being cold and wet…. In a preliminary conversation I had with [redacted] and [redacted] [she] informed me that when she initially observed CAMPBELL fall off his paddleboard, began splashing and became extremely panicked, yelling for help and subsequently went underwater very quickly. [Redacted] stated that she immediately discarded her paddleboard and swam over to CAMPBELL as fast as she could in [an] attempt to rescue him. [Redacted] explained that by the time she reached CAMPBELL’S paddleboard, she was “too late,” and he had disappeared into the murky, very low visibility water. [Redacted] stated that she then utilized CAMPBELL’S paddleboard and returned to the shore at [redacted] to alert the Secret Service and activate emergency help, as neither she nor CAMPBELL had cellular phones with them at the time of the incident. [Redacted] stated that she left CAMPBELL’S paddleboard on the shore and ran to the nearest U.S. Secret Service security post and reported the incident to the first USSS Special Agent she saw (Special Agent [redacted]).
[Redacted] informed me that he and [redacted], [redacted] were not present at their residence ([redacted] Edgartown) at the time of the incident and had been out for dinner, therefore, CAMPBELL would not have been working for the evening. [Redacted] thanked us for our efforts and departed the ICP a short time later.
At approximately 7:55 AM, we arrived at [redacted] accompanied by SAIC [special agent in charge] Murray and SAIC Murphy. Upon arrival at the residence, we were introduced to [reacted] invited us into his residence, and we were directed into the office of [redacted], which was to be utilized to conduct the interview.
[Redacted] explained that on Sunday, July 23, 2023, she began her day at approximately 8:00AM helping CAMPBELL in the kitchen at [redacted] in Edgartown. Throughout the day, and into lunch time, [redacted] said it was a quiet day, and she was helping CAMPBELL design his Instagram page.
[Redacted] explained that approximately 6:10 PM, on July 23. 2023, she asked CAMPBELL if he wanted to go paddleboarding in Edgartown Great Pond, to which he agreed…. CAMPBELL walked from the residence to the shoreline of Edgartown Great Pond and obtained two paddleboards and two paddles from the [redacted] property.
[Redacted] explained to me that CAMPBELL was an inexperienced swimmer, and that CAMPBELL had been attempting to teach himself to swim at the pool at the residence over the years. [Redacted] also stated that CAMPBELL had told her in the past that he couldn’t swim.
[Redacted] explained that when she and CAMPBELL began paddleboarding, they both remained on their knees while they paddled in Edgartown Great Pond. [Redacted] continued to say that at one point, she stood up on the paddleboard, and then saw CAMPBELL attempting to stand up on his board shortly thereafter. [Redacted] stated that after approximately 30 seconds of standing, she observed CAMPBELL lose his balance on the board and saw him fall into the water. [Redacted] stated that she yelled to CAMPBELL to grab onto the board in front of him, however, she observed he quickly begin to panic while yelling for help. [Redacted] stated that she left her board and attempted to swim to CAMPBELL to help him, however, she said by the time she reached CAMPBELLS board it was ‘too late’, and he went under the water…. [Redacted] stated that neither she, nor CAMPBELL consumed any alcohol or drugs prior to paddleboarding.
At approximately 8:32 AM [redacted] agreed to again board a fire boat to assist with the recovery effort in [an] attempt to provide a more precise location as to where she last saw CAMPBELL in the water, now that it was daylight.
[Redacted] directed the fire boat to a location that she provided, to the best of her recollection as where she saw CAMPBELL go underwater. This location was marked with a buoy.
Upon our arrival back at the ICP [incident command post], we were informed that the Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP) had arrived on scene and deployed Side Scan Sonar equipment to the area [redacted] identified and were searching that area, which was approximately 100-200 yards from the shore at [redacted]
At approximately 9:45 AM, I was informed that an area of interest had been identified by the MEP Side Scan Sonar, directly in the vicinity of where [redacted] identified last observing CAMPBELL.
At approximately 9:58 AM, we arrived on location as outlined by MEP [Massachusetts Environmental Police]. MSP [Mass. State Police] dive team members deployed into the water.
At approximately 10:00 AM, within minutes of entering the water, MSP divers recovered the body of a black male, fully submerged in the water … Divers estimated the water depth to be approximately seven to eight feet deep. I observed the body of a black make removed from the water and placed onto the deck of the boat…. I observed the male to be wearing a black t-shirt, black workout style shorts, and an Apple Watch on his left wrist, and a wedding band style ring on his left ring finger.
I met with CAMPBELL’S [redacted] and other family members and representatives on the CG [Coast Guard] dock in Menemsha. [Redacted] explained that CAMPBELL had taken swimming lessons in 2019 that consisted of one lesson a week for six weeks and described his swimming ability as “not a great swimmer.”
On Friday, August 18, 2023, I (Tpr. Dustin Shaw) was notified that the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) determined that Tafari J. CAMPBELL’S cause of death was a result of a drowning (submersion in a body of water), and the manner of death is accidental, as determined by OCME Dr. Anand Shah.
On Tuesday, September 12, 2023, at approximately 4:45 PM, I traveled to [redacted] in Edgartown and met with U.S. Secret Service SAIC Ben Murray for the purposes of viewing Secret Service surveillance footage of [redacted], Edgartown, from Sunday, July 23, 2023. My attention was drawn to a specific section of surveillance camera footage, beginning at approximately 6:54 PM on Sunday, July 23, 2023.
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] (Resue 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.
[I]t is my investigative opinion that the death of Tafari J. CAMPBELL is a result of an accidental drowning in Edgartown Great Pond, and is not criminal in nature, and foul play is not suspected. I respectfully request this case be classified as closed, pending any future information that would warrant it being re-opened.
The homicide/death report lists as seized evidence under “Property #1” an “Under Armour Baseball Hat (Black)” and in the description notes: “West Tisbury Firefighter Stephen Serusa recovers a black, Under Armour baseball hat in Edgartown Great Pond, floating in the marsh area of Turkeyland Cove … during search for Tafari CAMPBELL. Hat matches the description of CAMPBELLS hat he was last seen wearing. Hat later confirmed by witnesses to be CAMPBELLS.”
The report also notes that Property #2 is “1 USB flash drive containing two audio files (original 911 call and follow up call).” It was collected on August 9, 2023, and is described as “DCSO [Dukes County Sheriff’s Office] Original 911 Audio Recordings.”
Property #3 is a computer/telecom flash drive described as “CSSS [Crime Scene Service] Victim/Scene Photo Disc #1-1,” including the comment “One paper envelope containing Digital Video Disk (DVD-R-RW) Victim/Scene Photos.”
Property #4 is a flash drive containing autopsy photos.
Property #5 is a U.S. Coast Guard Station Menemsha log dated July 24, 2023. The comment section notes: “Tpr. Shaw retrieves US Coast Guard Station Menemsha Log dated “24JUL23” (1 page/double sided). Log signed by USCG Station Menemsha Command Staff.”
In a July 24 case master report, Shaw writes:
- He was notified at 7:58 p.m. on July 23 of “a possible drowning in Edgartown Great Pond” by the Dukes County Regional Emergency Communications Center.
- He was “briefed on situation by EFD [Edgartown Fire Department] Chief Alex Schaeffer” after Shaw arrived at the incident command post set up at Edgartown Great Pond, Wilsons Landing at 8:15 p.m. The report notes, “Chief Schaeffer identifies missing paddleboarder as Tafari CAMPBELL (DOB [redacted]).”
- At 8:25 p.m., Shaw requested MSP Airwing assistance for a search of Edgartown Great Pond.
- At 9:15 p.m., he boards a Secret Service boat, “along with USSS [Secret Service] Rescue Swimmers” to assist in searching for Campbell in Edgartown Great Pond.
- At 11:30 p.m., Shaw disembarked from the USSS boat and returned to his command post, ended his duty that night and would return the following day at 5:00am.
- At 7:55 a.m. on July 24, Shaw, along with Lt. Cosgrove, Capt. Benson and Major Farley of MSP arrived in Edgartown “for the interview of [redacted] (witness/survivor).” The entry notes, “Also present at the interview was USSS Special Agent Ben Murra [sic].”
- At 10:00 a.m. Shaw was on board a Tisbury Fire Department boat along with a state police dive team, “at which time the body of a black male, matching the description of CAMPBELL was recovered from the Edgartown Great Pond…. Body was transported to CP [command post] at Wilsons Land[ing].”
- At 10:25 a.m. “US Secret Service Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the [redacted] Protection Detail, [redacted], views and positively identified the body recovered from Edgartown Great Pond to be Tafari CAMPBELL (DOB [redacted]).”
- At 11:21 a.m. “Chapman Funeral Home arrives at Wilsons Landing CP and transports the body of CAMPBELL, at the request of the OCME [Office of the Chief Medical Examiner], from CP to US Coast Guard Station Menemsha. Tpr. Shaw, DLT Cosgrove, DCAPT Benson, Major Farley and USSS SA [Special Agent] Murphy follow hearse to USCG [US Coast Guard].”
- At 11:57 a.m. “The body of CAMPBELL arrives at U.S. Coast Guard Station Menemsha.”
- At 1:57 p.m. Shaw goes to Coast Guard Station Menemsha to pick up its daily log from July 24, 2023 re: 2023-102-251 (the state police case number for Campbell’s death).
- The final two entries indicate that at 4:45 p.m. Shaw arrives at a redacted location in Edgartown “re: meeting with US Secret Service SAIC [Special Agent in Charge] Ben Murray.” At 5:41pm they conclude their meeting and Shaw departs.”
The State Police write in their cover letter to Judicial Watch: “The Department conducted a diligent search of its records and is unable to locate any body worn and cruiser mounted video recordings. The Department is in the process of reviewing responsive records and will supplement this response.
A July 24, 2023, administrative log note lists the case as closed and includes the synopsis “US Secret Service Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge of the [redacted] Protection Detail [redacted], views and positively identified the body recovered from Edgartown Great Pond to be Tafari CAMPBELL (DOB [redacted]).”
“It is concerning that Judicial Watch had to push for several months to find out that Barack Obama was personally involved in the death investigation of his personal chef Tafari Campbell,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
In August 2023, Judicial Watch released records it received from the Edgarton, MA, 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.
Source: Judicial Watch