Police chief requests video release of alleged chemical use

June 4, 2020 GMT
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A woman screams as she speaks to other protesters gathered in Romare Bearden Park, Saturday, May 30, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C., as people nationwide protested the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis. (Jeff Siner/The Charlotte Observer via AP)
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A woman screams as she speaks to other protesters gathered in Romare Bearden Park, Saturday, May 30, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C., as people nationwide protested the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis. (Jeff Siner/The Charlotte Observer via AP)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The police chief in North Carolina’s largest city will ask the state’s courts to release video of an encounter in which police officers appeared to use chemical agents on demonstrators who were boxed in while protesting the death of George Floyd.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney was set to immediately petition the courts for the videos’ release, the department said in a statement Wednesday night.

The clash was recorded Tuesday by Justin LaFrancois, the publisher of an alternative Charlotte newspaper. He said officers fired tear gas and flash-bangs from in front of and behind the trapped protesters. He also said officers were perched on top of buildings and fired pepper balls onto the crowd.

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Charlotte-Mecklenburg police issued a statement earlier Wednesday saying it asked the State Bureau of Investigation to review the situation and determine whether the police actions were legal. The agency confirmed on Thursday that an investigation is underway.

“There is nothing to indicate whatsoever that there was intentional abuse on the part of our officers,” Putney said.

Mayor Vi Lyles spoke out against the actions, but cautioned that a review of the incident would take time.

Lyles, Putney and City Council members met with, then marched alongside, demonstrators on Wednesday in a listening session that at times grew tense, The Charlotte Observer reported.

Chemical agents can burn eyes and cause coughing and other adverse physical reactions. Demonstrators had gathered to protest the death of Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck as he pleaded for air.