Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have launched an investigation after a video shows a police officer punching a woman multiple times.
A police officer filmed repeatedly punching a woman to the ground this week has been temporarily reassigned pending an internal investigation, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Johnny Jennings said Wednesday.
“I’ll just say to everyone and our community, I get it,” Jennings said of the video. “I understand the outrage. I understand the emotions that arise when you watch a video of a police officer hitting a woman.
In the video posted on social media, the woman is seen on the ground while several police officers hold her down. A police officer hits the woman several times with a closed fist, while a passerby shouts: “Let her go!” Others criticize the officers. The woman was put back on her feet and taken to a police vehicle.
The woman’s lawyer, Christina Pierre, told CNN on Thursday that her client was “terrified” and his “spirit was broken.”
“It’s a traumatic experience in a whole new city with her fiancé,” attorney Lauren Newton said. “We’re just very grateful that witnesses have come forward.”
A witness, a white woman, who Newton said he spoke with, told the lawyer that the officer “cold punched” Pierre in the face and “she went down like a rag doll.”
CNN has not spoken with the witness to independently confirm his story.
Police said two officers on patrol Monday afternoon saw two people smoking marijuana at a bus stop. The police informed the two people, identified as Anthony Lee and Pierre, that they were under arrest. Police said Lee and Pierre resisted arrest and in the ensuing struggle, “the woman struck a police officer several times.”
Pierre continued to resist arrest, lying on his hands and ignoring verbal commands, according to police. A police officer “struck the woman seven times with knee strikes and 10 blows with a closed fist to the peroneal nerve of the thigh in an attempt to force her to obey. The officer intentionally knew where the strikes were carried out,” police said.
“When you look at the body-worn camera, you’ll see exactly where these blows are being delivered,” said Jennings, who acknowledged it could be months before the public sees the body camera footage.
North Carolina law requires a judge’s order to release body-worn camera videos.
“I think the public deserves the right to see this video,” Jennings said, adding that his department has asked a court to release it.
“What I can tell you is that the body-worn camera footage, especially when it’s on the ground, tells the story more than the footage you saw from afar,” Jennings told about the video posted on social networks this week.
Jennings, a 32-year veteran of the force, said police use of force never looks “good for the public.”
He added that it was too early to say whether the officers would be punished. Jennings identified the officer seen hitting Pierre as Vincent Pistone, who was temporarily reassigned from the patrol division to an investigative division.
Jennings acknowledged that a bystander’s video is difficult to watch and said there are lessons to be learned “that we can look at in terms of policy and training.”
The police chief was also questioned about a photo showing an injury to Pierre’s face.
“I had my team go back and watch all the videos so we could try to figure out where these injuries might be coming from,” Jennings said. “There are a few different thoughts when looking at the body-worn camera. There is no indication that she was struck while on the ground, in the head or face. There was a scuffle with only one officer before his replacement arrived. We believe that if any abrasions or bruising to his face occurred, it would have happened during this struggle at some point. Unfortunately, this officer’s body-worn camera was ripped off during the fight and can barely be seen in the corner.”
Jennings, referring to the first encounter between police and Pierre, said: “There are a few different thoughts looking at the body-worn camera. There is nothing very clear and visible, if an officer hit her.”
Newton said Pierre got scared and screamed when a police officer “jumped her fiancé, Tony” after accusing them of smoking marijuana at a bus stop. She said it was Pierre’s first encounter with law enforcement.
Pierre had his face examined at a hospital, according to Newton. The photo showing an injury to Pierre’s face was taken on Tuesday, the day after his arrest. Newton said Pierre suffered pain but did not have a fracture. Newton added that Pierre “has no bruises on his legs” despite being hit multiple times, as seen in the video.
Newton said she was scheduled to see the body camera video Friday.
Police said the woman in the video was charged with assaulting a government official, resisting/delay/obstructing and possession of marijuana. The man in the video was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, resisting/delaying/obstructing and possession of marijuana.
Correction: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect first name for attorney Lauren Newton.
Gn En usa