Ty Turner, center, with Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham, right, after his release from Mecklenburg County Jail on Monday evening. Photo by Antoine James via Facebook.

UPDATE: Turner, CMPD share conflicting stories on arrest; CMPD says officers didn’t violate policies

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A local LGBT leader and a former candidate for the North Carolina Senate was arrested Monday evening by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers after distributing handbills on vehicles parked near Marshall Park, where a Labor Day Moral Monday rally was taking place. Though a camera phone video clearly shows officers telling the leader was is “under arrest,” a CMPD spokesperson says today Turner was only detained, not charged and released shortly after the incident.

The incident in question began when leader Ty Turner was stopped by two bike officers with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD). Officers allegedly told Turner he was violating a city ordinance. According to eye-witnesses, Turner asked the officers which ordinance he was violating. The officers did not answer his question.

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A video taken by Turner during the stop shows Turner asking the officers for the ordinance. An officer is seen ruffling through some sort of paperwork as a second officer repeatedly tells Turner to put his phone down and apparently tries to grab the phone from Turner’s hands. As Turner refuses to stop recording and says he has the right to do so, the second officer is clearly heard saying, “You are under arrest.”

In the video, Turner is seen repeatedly saying he was asking a question, as he and the officer grapple.

“Get off of me… I don’t have to put my phone down,” Turner said.

The officer says, “Stop resisting.”

“Why am I resisting? I’m not putting my phone down,” Turner responds. “I asked the officer a question. Why are you putting me in cuffs?”

“You are being arrested,” the officer says.

CMPD spokesperson Jessica Wallin told qnotes that Turner was only detained, not fully arrested. The city ordinance in question is a regulation prohibiting the distribution of handbills or other paper materials on vehicles.

Turner was, at the time, distributing handbills for upcoming elections. He was wearing a T-shirt for a local judicial candidate’s campaign.

Turner was handcuffed and placed into a CMPD cruiser. According to ThinkProgress, Turner was never taken to the Mecklenburg County Jail, the blog reporting: “Instead of transporting Turner directly to the Mecklenburg County jail, which sits just a few blocks from Marshall Park, he said they took him first to an empty parking lot behind the highway. ‘They took me to three different spots other than the jail,’ he said. ‘They knew they were in the wrong.'”

Upon hearing of the arrest, about 30 participants from the Moral Monday rally — including state NAACP President Rev. William J. Barber II, Charlotte NAACP President Rev. Kojo Nantambu and Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham — marched silently to the Mecklenburg County Jail to ask for Turner’s release.

Turner was not charged and was released shortly after his arrest. He was issued a citation.

Distributing handbills or other advertisements on parked vehicles, while prohibited by ordinance, is a common advertising technique used by a variety of businesses, non-profits and community organizers. qnotes has asked CMPD to provide information on the number of arrests and citations they’ve issued for violations of this ordinance over the past year. We’ll update the story when we receive word from CMPD.

Turner was a candidate in this spring’s primary for the North Carolina Senate’s District 40 seat. He lost the primary race to lead opponent Joyce Waddell.

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UPDATE: Turner, CMPD share conflicting stories on arrest; CMPD says officers didn’t violate policies

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.