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Judge orders release of CMPD body camera video from viral arrest in Steele Creek

Body camera video of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s viral, forceful arrest of a couple outside of a Steele Creek-area Bojangles will be released to the public, a judge ruled Thursday.

The video — which shows moments leading up to Officer Vincent Pistone’s 17 “compliance strikes” to Christina Pierre — will be available to the public by Dec. 12, said Superior Court Judge Daniel Kuehnert. All footage — including when police transported and interviewed Pierre and her fiance Anthony Lee — will first be shown to the Charlotte City Council during a closed meeting, as requested by Jessica Battle, CMPD’s lawyer.

The city expects CMPD to show the footage to the council Dec. 11, city spokesman Lawrence Corley said.

At-large City Council member Dimple Ajmera said the council will be “transparent” in its review — part of the “due process” that “all parties involved are entitled to.”

“We will follow the legal proceedings, then any changes that need to be made will be addressed,” she said.

District 2 council member Malcolm Graham said the video’s release will give local leaders and the public a chance to see “exactly what happened.”

“Obviously, public accountability is always important,” he said.

If they are unable to view it Dec. 11, the video must still be released by Dec. 12, the judge ruled.

“The public has a right to see it,” Kuehnert said.

Pierre and Lee were arrested after police began a “self-initiated investigation,” Battle said. Police said they found the two smoking marijuana on after they clocked out from work at a Bojangles near South Tryon Street and West Arrowood Road.

“The officers stopped, engaged the two individuals, and stated that they were under arrest,” CMPD said in a news release. “(Pierre) became combative and struck an officer in the face. Both individuals refused arrest and a struggle with officers ensued.”

The viral video of Pierre’s arrest shows what happened next.

A still-unnamed officer “returned a strike” to her face, according to the department, and Pistone repeatedly hit her with “compliance strikes,” CMPD said in a statement after the video began circulating online.

CMPD chief said video shows more complete story

At a Nov. 15 press conference, CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings said that the body camera footage he viewed told a more complete story, and that he was frustrated by state law requiring a court order for its release.

There ought to be a way to expedite some footage’s release when it’s in the public’s interest, Jennings said.

But the body camera footage did not stop the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office from dismissing the charges.

“After consideration of the body-worn camera evidence and the various recorded accounts of police and civilian witnesses present, based on the totality of the circumstances, the State does not have a reasonable likelihood of success at any potential trial on this matter,” according to Pierre’s dismissal paperwork, signed by prosecutor Sheena Gatehouse.

Police originally charged Pierre with assault on a government official, resisting arrest and simple possession of marijuana. They charged Lee with carrying a concealed firearm, resisting arrest and simple possession of marijuana.

Lee did not have a North Carolina concealed carry permit and did not tell officers he had a gun, Battle said during Thursday’s hearing.

Reporters Ryan Oehrli and Mary Ramsey contributed.