News & Opinion

CMPD Footage Shows June 2 Ambush Was Planned Attack

On Wednesday, CMPD released 57 videos taken from the body cameras of police officers working in Uptown during protests on June 2, during which the department implemented tactics against protesters that have led to calls for action from local, state and national leaders.

[Related: Security Footage Depicts June 2 Ambush As It Happened]

Despite claims to the contrary by department officials, the footage confirms that the trapping of peaceful protesters with gas on East 4th Street that night was a planned ambush that appears to have been devised by supervising officer Maj. Rob Dance, and carried out by his platoon and another platoon supervised by Lt. Chris Rorie. The two men each led squads of officers that closed in on the group of protesters from South College and South Tryon streets, respectively, and shot tear gas into the crowd while other officers in a parking garage fired pepper balls at the protesters from above. 

Queen City Nerve’s live-stream footage of the June 2 incident, shot by Justin LaFrancois, can be seen here. LaFrancois crosses the intersection at around the 1:43:00 mark. 

In one body cam video, a supervising sergeant of a CMPD bike squad describes the plan beforehand to a fellow officer, stating, “Rorie’s got a platoon on Tryon out of sight, Dance’s platoon is staged now on College out of sight. We’re gonna push their ass straight up 4th. As soon as they get up on 4th, we got ’em bottlenecked now, Rorie’s squad is gonna step out and hammer their ass. When they start running down, Dance’s squad is gonna step out and hammer their ass with gas… We’re gonna fuckin’ pop it up.” The sergeant then stands behind a wall of bike police as the protesters walk by and says, “Wave goodbye, they’re all about to get gassed.” 

Though CMPD would not release the man’s name, Queen City Nerve confirmed through two sources that he is Sgt. Scott Sherwood. The department announced on Wednesday that Sherwood has been suspended for two weeks for making “unprofessional, insensitive and unacceptable” comments in the video. It does not appear Dance or Rorie have been disciplined for their roles in the incident. 

On June 5, then-Chief Kerr Putney held a virtual press conference, in which he stated that he “didn’t like the optics” of Queen City Nerve’s live-streamed footage, but claimed the entire series of events was a “tactical mistake” rather than a planned attack. He promised that CMPD footage from the night would eventually vindicate his claims. Putney retired at the end of the June. 

While many have focused on the video of Sherwood as the most concrete evidence of the premeditation involved in the June 2 incident, there is evidence throughout the many videos that CMPD released pointing to the same conclusion. We have uploaded multiple videos that help give context to what happened on June 2 and why it is clear that the attack was planned as a way to traumatize peaceful protesters into giving up and going home. 

We begin with Video 19, which shows the first real confrontation between protesters and police that night, occurring at South McDowell and East 5th streets, where police were blocking access to U.S. 74 (East Independence Boulevard). The officer wearing the camera orders officers to deploy “Stingers,” or flashbang grenades, after reports of an officer being hit with a rock come over the radio. No evidence of this assault or calls for medical attention can be seen or heard in any of the videos. Officers also state on the video that they were sprayed by some sort of chemical agent. 

Officers can be heard on the radio in Video 19 discussing a dispersal order, though the order itself cannot be heard. Officials would later use that dispersal order and the claims of violence at 5th and McDowell as justification for the ambush that would occur 20 minutes later as protesters marched peacefully up East 4th Street. 

At about the 7:18 mark in the video, an officer on the radio states that he just met with Rorie and, “We’re gonna start working towards making this push happen.”

Video 21 doesn’t add much context to the night, except to show how enjoyable the use of riot-control agents is for officers, as one officer on a dirt bike approaches fellow officers just before the two-minute mark and gleefully exclaims, “That was awesome!” before describing what happened at 5th and McDowell. 

In Video 26, taken by an officer at 5th and McDowell after flashbangs have sent most of the crowd away, an officer can be heard at the 50-second mark telling Rorie that it’s time to “get to 4th and Tryon and get set up.” This is where Rorie’s Civil Emergency Unit(CEU) will eventually step in front of marching protesters to stop them from getting past North Tryon Street and begin deploying tear gas. At the 1:50 mark, the voice can be heard stating that “Rorie’s people” are getting set up and will be in place. 

As soon as the sounds kicks in on Video 30, at the 30-second mark, a voice can be heard over the radio stating that, “We’re definitely going to need more bikes at College and 4th to keep them on 4th.” After one officer talks more about the “push up 4th,” another comes over the radio and addresses Dance directly (1:40), stating, “We’ve got both sides of 4th on College. If they continue up College, we can still do what you had in mind,” implying that if protesters do not continue on 4th Street, the plan does not need to go to waste.

At the 5:40 mark, a reminder sounds over the radio for bike police, who do not wear protection from tear gas, to escape “down 4th or outbound College” when the attack begins, which they can be seen doing in a coordinated effort in later videos.

At the 7:30 mark, orders come over the radio for those involved in the ambush to “hold off as long as you can” so as to trap the most protesters possible between College and Tryon. An officer standing next to the filming officer, listening to the radio traffic, says, “They must have some big ass plan. Do you know what it is?” The filming officer responds, “No, it’s like the Battle of the Bulge or something.” 

Shortly thereafter, the two units can be heard carrying out the attack over the radio, first reminding Rorie’s unit to give a 10-second heads up before it begins. Soon after the attack starts, someone yells, “Bikes, let’s roll!” to signal bike squad officers to leave the area. An officer can be heard stating, “That was very effective,” a minute or so after the ambush begins.

At the 9-minute mark, command asks the CEU officers involved whether protesters have an avenue of escape, to which someone responds, “They do, they have two.” As the filming officer listens to the radio, then hears flashbangs going off in the nearby blocks, he exclaims, “That’s awesome.” He, along with another officer on the radio (10:15), respond with laughter to the statement, “Command, it looks like you’ve got ’em on the run.”

Video 34 is the one that led to Sgt. Scott Sherwood’s two-week suspension. His full explanation of the attack begins at the 2:15 mark, and his comments about the protesters, which can be seen marching peacefully in front of him, come at 3:24. 

Video 36 shows the beginning of the attack from the perspective of bike officers set up at the intersection of 4th and College. As protesters march peacefully up 4th Street, you again hear the order (3:20) to “hold off as long as you can.” At 4:06, the first flashbang explodes. Shortly after, the bike squad takes their escape route down 4th. 

A little further up the street, in Video 39, the first flash bang can be seen at 2:37. The bike squad immediately escapes down College while the CEU opens fire with pepper balls. 

It’s unclear when Video 45 was filmed. It shows a full squad of officers harassing a couple walking on the sidewalk, chanting “Go home!” The couple then runs into a CEU squad. The time stamps are somewhat inconsistent in these videos, but it appears to  have happened 10 minutes after the ambush. 

Wrapping up the body-cam footage with Video 50, we present a bunch of shady plainclothes officers in a van watching our live stream. As with many of the officers in this footage dump, the guy who recorded this video did so by accident, and said as much before turning his camera off. 

In addition to the body-worn camera footage, CMPD also released a handful of CCTV footage that was taken from buildings near both incidents at 5th and McDowell streets and 4th and College streets. Below is video of the incident from the view of CMPD’s helicopter. We will be releasing the rest of the CCTV footage with breakdowns in a separate article.

Justin LaFrancois contributed reporting to this story.

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