A prosecutor has dismissed a felony charge against a Black Lives Matter protester after a bystander’s video contradicted the claim that the protester threatened a passing motorcyclist with a handgun last year.

The motorcyclist told police that Rocco Wong of Portland lifted their shirt to display a handgun in their waistband and made threatening statements during a protest on Sept. 7. A lawyer for Wong said a video of the encounter actually showed the motorcyclist yelling while the protester backed away.

“Without that video evidence, this case would have gone to trial, and my client possibly would have been convicted based on a lie,” defense attorney Tina Heather Nadeau said.

Wong, who is 33 and uses they/them pronouns, was charged with one count of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, a Class C crime that carries a potential prison sentence of up to five years. The prosecutor on the case filed the dismissal Wednesday and cited “insufficient evidence in light of video provided by defense counsel.”

Nadeau provided a statement on her client’s behalf: “The reason why I march is to fight this kind of bigotry.”

Cumberland County District Attorney Jonathan Sahrbeck said his office learned about the footage at a recent dispositional conference about the case.

“Upon review of that video and looking at the facts of the case, we thought that it was in the interest of justice to file a dismissal,” Sahrbeck said. “The video evidence was going to make it very difficult to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Police described the allegations in a written report and in a news release.

The motorcyclist, a 50-year-old South Portland man, said he was at a stop sign on Pearl Street when a group of protesters encircled him, and he felt threatened by their actions and got off his bike. He told police Wong then lifted their shirt to display the gun and made threatening comments. The motorcyclist called 911 and then pointed out Wong in the demonstration, which had moved to the plaza at Portland City Hall. The officers then arrested Wong.

Sahrbeck said he would not describe the events in the video. He said his office has been in contact with the person who made the complaint against Wong but would not disclose that person’s response. An attempt to reach him Thursday afternoon was not successful.

Nadeau said she was not authorized to identify the person who took the video or share it with others. But she described it in an interview. She said the clip actually shows two men, including the motorcyclist, yelling at the protesters who were marching downtown.

“The video shows the motorcycle pull up to a parking space,” she said. “No one is near the motorcycle.”

The man got off the bike and approached Wong in the street, Nadeau said. The two exchanged words, and the motorcyclist continued to yell as Wong backed away. Nadeau said the video does not show her client display the gun at any point.

Police later seized a handgun from Wong. Nadeau said her client is a peaceful person, and brought the gun for protection from counter protesters and carried it legally.

“There was no threatening there,” she said.

The district attorney emphasized the value of the video footage and encouraged anyone with information about a criminal case to share it with law enforcement or prosecutors.

“Video evidence is very strong and can be dispositive of a case, either in a way that supports the charges or can exonerate people from charges,” Sahrbeck said. “That’s why it’s very important for people to come forward.”

Nadeau said she was grateful that the person who filmed the encounter trusted her by sharing the clip.

“The protesters, the people who want to be active allies, keep recording, keep documenting,” she said. “Connect with your fellow peers, see if it could ever be helpful. Just watch each other’s backs.”

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