CHARLOTTE — The charges against a woman who was punched in the face by an officer while being arrested have been dismissed, court records show.
Christina Pierre is the woman seen in a viral video that created city-wide outrage on social media. The video shows her getting repeatedly punched by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officer.
Police said the incident began when an officer stopped two people, Pierre and Tony Lee, who appeared to be smoking marijuana near a bus stop on Nov. 13. But the attorney for the couple said they were smoking a legal substance purchased at a nearby store. Either way, the Mecklenburg County district attorney typically does not prosecute marijuana arrests.
The viral video shows several CMPD officers holding Pierre down while one officer hits her several times.
In a statement, police said Pierre was resisting arrest. They also said a different officer than the one seen hitting Pierre struck her in the face, but that was after she hit the officer multiple times.
Police said Lee was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, resist/obstruct/delay and possession of marijuana. Pierre was charged with assault on a government official, resist/delay/obstruct and possession of marijuana.
On Tuesday, Channel 9 learned the charges against Pierre and Lee have been dismissed, according to court documents. The DA’s office declined to comment on the dismissal, but in the dismissal paperwork, they explained the decision.
“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,” it reads.
Pierre’s attorney, Lauren Newton, said she was pleased with the outcome.
“We are pleased to see the justice system working as it should be with these charges being dropped,” she said in a statement to Channel 9.
A hearing over whether a judge will allow CMPD to release body camera video of the incident to the public is scheduled for Thursday. Newton told Channel 9′s Joe Bruno it’s still important that video release happens, despite the charges being dropped.
“Just because the first narrative put out was that my client was somehow doing something wrong as opposed to doing something perfectly legal — sitting on a bench waiting for a bus as soon as she left work,” she told Bruno.
Channel 9 reached out to CMPD and to the Fraternal Order of Police for comments.
CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings posted on X that he was disappointed in the district attorney’s decision:
“I was disappointed to learn that all charges were dropped against Ms. Pierre and Mr. Lee, specifically the firearms charges and the assault on a government official charges. However, I have a great deal of respect for our district attorney and know he has a difficult decision to make when it comes to the prosecution of these cases. Our CMPD officers work hard each day to keep our community safe. Whether or not these cases are prosecuted in the criminal justice system is beyond our control. Even if charges are dropped or prosecution isn’t likely, that does not change how we enforce the very laws we swore to uphold.”
CMPD said it was conducting an internal investigation into the arrest. Earlier this month, the department said the officer seen on video hitting Pierre has been reassigned, but the officer who hit Pierre in the face did not have a change of assignment.
The president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #9 also said in a statement that he was disappointed:
“We are refraining from making an official detailed statement until the BWC footage has been released. I will say that we are disappointed that the charges have been dropped prior to the footage being publicly released. Once we’ve been able to review all the information available, I will be glad to speak.”
This week, the public may find out if we will see the body camera videos that were recorded before and after the incident.
Even if granted by a judge on Thursday, it is unlikely we will get the recording that day.
On Tuesday, CMPD announced the creation of a Community and Police Collaboration Group. The group’s goal is to review certain department policies and provide recommendations for improvement.
“I feel that there is a need to form a Community and Police Collaboration Group who will mutually make recommendations for potential policy changes,” CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings said in a statement. “Members of this group have been identified and are being contacted to gauge interest. We have a goal of having constructive conversations regarding policies that include Response to Resistance, police-citizen encounters and more.”
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations worked with Jennings to make this possible.
The community relations group will host a series of meetings starting next month “to foster ongoing collaboration and open dialogue among a diverse group of stakeholders.”
Included in those meetings will be “faith-based leaders, community leaders and organizers representing various entities including the Citizens Review Board, the Community Relations Committee, the NAACP, Action NC, clergy members and the Latin American Coalition.”
CMPD said the meetings will end in June 2024 when the group presents their policy recommendations to CMPD.
The police department didn’t say what led to the move, but it was announced hours after the charges against Pierre and Lee were dismissed. Channel 9 is clarifying whether the change was made in response to the incident.
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