CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation will conduct an independent review of CMPD procedures after 50 complaints were filed against the department related to incidents during Tuesday night protests in Charlotte.
City leaders questioned CMPD’s actions during a June 2 incident caught on video by a local alternative newspaper during uptown Charlotte protests. Since Friday, police say CMPD’s Internal Affairs has received 50 complaints on officers, 49 of which were received Wednesday.
CMPD Chief Kerr Putney made himself available to answer questions from the media Wednesday at 5:45 p.m. Putney says he will petition to release the body cam video of Tuesday night’s incident. He says it will “show the full picture.”
The department tweeted Wednesday night saying Putney would “immediately” petition the courts for the release of videos associated with Tuesday night’s 4th Street incident at the conclusion of the SBI’s review.
CMPD says several officers became targets for violence Tuesday night, resulting in the arrest of 16 people and the recovery for three guns over a nearly four-hour period.
Charlotte City Councilmember At-Large Braxton Winston tweeted a video Tuesday night, captured by Queen City Nerve, a Charlotte alternative newspaper, showing the incident in question.
“The deployment of chemical agents in Charlotte needs to end tonight,” Winston tweeted.
CMPD gave their account of the incident on Wednesday afternoon.
“Just before 9:30 p.m., a group of several hundred protesters who were given several orders to disperse because of the violent criminal activity they were engaging in throughout the night marched up 4th street. A coordinated operation involving riot control agents to disperse the crowd was undertaken,” CMPD said on Wednesday.
CMPD said Wednesday they have requested an independent review of the incident by the State Bureau of Investigation to “ensure there is an objective set of eyes to determine if CMPD actions were lawful.”
Chaz Beasley, the state representative for North Carolina House District 92, expressed his anger over the video clip on Twitter.
“I am absolutely FURIOUS with @cmpd right now. This video shows @cmpd firing upon peaceful protestors with tear gas, flash bangs, and pepper balls from THREE sides. Trapped against a bldg w/ nowhere to go. I refuse to stand for my constituents being attacked like this,” Rep. Beasley said.
Two-term Charlotte city councilwoman Dimple Ajmera said she talked to City Manager Marcus Jones and he said the incident will be investigated.
Charlotte City Council Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt responded to the video.
“It’s not ok. And we need answers,” Eiselt said.
UNC Charlotte student who survived the April 30 shooting on campus, Drew Pescaro, responded to the incident on Twitter Wednesday.
“You saved my life and I will forever be thankful and in debt for that. But the actions that you used tonight were unjust and should be reviewed by a third party to ensure fairness. You cornered and attacked citizens at will. You’re better than this,” Pescaro said.
After all of the responses and questions about the video circulating on social media, CMPD issued a statement via Twitter saying the incident is under internal review.
“We are internally reviewing the circumstances that developed this evening on 4th Street to ensure policy and protocol were followed,” CMPD tweeted.
This was before their announcement of an independent review from the SBI.
The Fraternal Order of Police issued a statement Wednesday, saying they “support the CMPD response to resistance being used against protestors displaying active aggression.”
“The City of Charlotte is once again at the center of civil unrest. The Fraternal Order of Police supports peaceful protests to stop social injustice. Unfortunately, peaceful protests have turned into violence towards innocent citizens, property owners, and law enforcement officers. The FOP supports the CMPD response to resistance being used against protestors displaying active aggression. Our officers have had rocks, bricks, commercial fireworks, and glass bottles thrown at them. Officers only deployed less lethal options after these types of assaults occurred on officers. Councilman Braxton Winston wants CMPD to stop the use of chemical munitions. This decision is not up to CMPD. This decision is up to those individuals assaulting our officers and our citizens. Officers are sworn to protect people and preserve order. We will not accept members of this community who assault others and cause anarchy. Councilman Winston was seen on social media with those throwing rocks and bricks at officers. The majority of head leadership positions in Charlotte are held by minorities. Councilman Winston has the perfect opportunity to use his position to address social injustice and be a role model for other cities. However, Councilman Winston continues to disrespect his position by standing alongside those criminals trying to burn down the city. There have been several officers injured during this protest already. Thank you to all the citizens who continue to show support for law enforcement. We will stand strong and support the actions needed to protect this community,” the statement read.
CMPD’s Wednesday statement continued, with police expressing their feelings that there was no “intentional abuse on the part of our officers.”
“There is nothing to indicate whatsoever that there was intentional abuse on the part of our officers. In the interest of accountability, It is regrettable, and something we take seriously. We have an enormous responsibility to ensure all of our operations are carried out with precision. We as an organization need to learn from this incident, and redouble our efforts to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to keep the community, protesters and officers safe. We are a learning organization and always working to identify opportunities to serve our community better,” the CMPD statement read.
There are currently no officers on administrative leave in reference to protest-related incidents.
Mayor Vi Lyles invited the public to the front of the government center Wednesday night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. to address questions from the community. She says this includes questions about protests, the video from Tuesday night and police violence.
At this event, Chief Putney addressed questions from the community. When he arrived, he expressed his frustrations with police brutality and had a question for the crowd.
“I understand the frustration. I have it too. But I want to know, what do we really want to do about it?,” Putney said.
The crowd had many questions about why Tuesday night’s incidents were allowed.
"Who gave the order?” Someone in the crowd asked about tear gas being deployed during Tuesday protests.
Chief Putney says he authorizes certain actions when protests go from peaceful to violent, but said leadership in the civil emergency unit also makes decisions.
Putney promised not to use chemical agents on protesters if there is no violence.
“Are you going to gas us tonight when we march?,” the crowd asked.
“We will absolutely not if there is no violence,” Putney responded.
The crowd then erupted saying there wasn’t any violence Tuesday night, but CMPD said in a press release that things were being thrown at officers, including rocks Tuesday.
“I said the specific order at that time is being investigated right now," Putney said as he was questioned about which officer specifically made the call to use tear gas in the incident on 4th street Tuesday.
Some even called on Chief Putney to march with them Wednesday night so “he can see.”
City Manager Marcus Jones says regardless of the outcome of the SBI investigation, CMPD will review their policies.