In early June in the first days of Seattle’s summer of Black Lives Matter protests and the formation of CHOP, a strange, noisy, seemingly endlessly circling airplane added to the peculiar tension building on Capitol Hill.
Thanks to Seattle criminal defense attorney Nacim Bouchtia, we can now get a look at what that Cessna 206 was up to in the air above the neighborhood.
Bouchtia filed a public records request with the Washington State Patrol for video surveillance recorded by the plane this summer including its long, droning loops above Capitol Hill. Those videos have now been uploaded to Youtube here.
CHS reported on the plane and WSP’s assistance to law enforcement on the ground during early June protest activity around the East Precinct:
The plane’s mission, the spokesperson said, was “flying in support of the operations on the ground.” With state troopers working with Seattle Police and the National Guard as part of the crowd control forces in place around the East Precinct, the plane’s FLIR thermal imaging camera was providing commanders at the protest with views of the streets and activities happening around the neighborhood. When there were reports of people possibly throwing objects from a nearby roof overnight, the plane was able to help police find the trespassers. Plane N305DK had a long night. Leaving a few times only to refuel, the craft finally called it a night sometime around 2 AM.
Here is one clip captured by N305DK that night during tense minutes at 12th and Pine:
N305DK is the only plane capable of this type of video surveillance in the WSP fleet and is deployed across the state as needed. “It depends on where there are issues. And where it is needed most,” a WSP spokesperson told us last summer.
Another plane identified that night is believed to have been an FBI surveillance craft.
As for the videos, scenes range from protests in Olympia, Bellevue, and on Capitol Hill and Seattle’s stretch of I-5, to high speed freeway chases unrelated to the protests.
You can view all of the videos from Bouchtia here.
There aren’t many moments of high drama. Instead, protest activities play out in a distant, white noise quiet kind of way — until the camera zooms, that is. On those zooms, the power of the technology is on full display. The main lesson? With planes and cameras like this, you can see why the authorities like to have aircraft like N305DK working above — even if it means an irritating night of airplane noise for those living below.
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