A Piece of the Action

The call of the wilding still echoes in Denver.

Shannon asked a cop for his badge number; instead, the cop told him he was "a serious pain in my ass." Serious enough that Shannon wound up in jail for failure to obey a lawful order, with a trial set for November 23. He came to municipal court with his pastor as well as a new lawyer, David Suro, who brought a copy of the 911 tape that contradicted the cop's account on his police report. After she heard the tape, the prosecutor dismissed the charges.

That night, Shannon finally got his say in front of the media. And the next day, he learned that there was a $10,000 warrant out for his arrest -- for rioting, or "engaging in a public disturbance by tumultuous behavior."

A half-dozen people he'd captured on his videotape back in June were charged with assault; one news account erroneously reported that Shannon had been charged with assault, too. "The only thing on the tape that's anything close to bad on my part is the one time a security guard hits me and I say 'Wow,'" Shannon says. But the cops told him that "because I had a video camera downtown, I egged people on and made them fight. It went from that to 'You're a gang member.'"

Shannon knows gang members; you don't grow up in Park Hill and attend public high school and not know gang members. But he's never been a gang member, he says, nor has he sold drugs or smoked (he has a bad heart). In fact, he's a licensed minister. And the honors student was recently elected Mr. Lincoln University -- making him a very big man on his campus in Jefferson City, Missouri.

"The whole thing astounds me," says Mark Nordstrom, the communications professor who'd suggested that Shannon use his video camera to capture assorted sides of life. "That police can behave that badly. That prosecutors can behave that badly. That media outlets can behave this badly."

Shannon still wants to become a journalist. He still has faith in facts. "I'm hoping that the truth will be able to come out in the end," he says.

The end could come as early as May 17, when Shannon is scheduled for a jury trial on the rioting charge. If he's guilty, you might as well lock up 9News's newsroom, too, and reporters across the country who've gone where the action is. But Suro isn't focusing on the First Amendment aspects of the case. He's starting with the Fourth, arguing that the seizure of the video camera was illegal -- and never mind what was inside it.

But anyone who's seen the clips of those nights in LoDo would find the tape impossible to forget. "It's a learning experience," Shannon says. "To say that film was out of context is the understatement of the century. It was times a million. You can see how one small thing, on an out-of-the-ordinary night, has still affected downtown nightlife."

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