A night of peaceful protests in Charlotte
Race Issues | Questions remain about police shooting; many still want to see the video
by Lynde Langdon & Mickey McLean
Posted 9/21/16, 10:53 am
UPDATE (9/23/16, 11:20 a.m.): The third night of protests in Charlotte, N.C., brought peaceful demonstrations against police shootings instead of the violence and destruction of the previous two nights. Protesters gathered in the business district and marched as National Guard members looked on. Though some of the protesters remained past the mayor’s 12 a.m. curfew, police did not arrest them as long as they stayed calm.
Protesters chanted, “Release the tape!” a reference to police footage showing the Tuesday afternoon shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. Both police and family members who viewed the video said it did not answer the question of what Scott had in his hand when police shot him. Officers say it was a gun; family members say it was a book.
Scott’s family called on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to make the video public Thursday, but Chief Kerr Putney said doing so could undermine the ongoing investigation.
Meanwhile, a congressman who represents parts of Charlotte issued a swift apology for remarks some found offensive. Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., told the BBC in an interview Thursday the Charlotte protesters “hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not.”
Pittenger quickly took to Twitter after the interview to explain he meant to refer to how entitlement programs deny African-Americans economic opportunities. He apologized to those he offended and said the interview “doesn’t reflect who I am.”
UPDATE (9/22/16, 8:40 p.m.): After viewing the police video of Keith Lamont Scott’s shooting today, his family requested officials release the footage to the public. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney refused, saying he would not make the video public until he had a compelling reason to do so.
“You shouldn't expect it to be released,” Putney told reporters. “I’m not going to jeopardize the investigation.”
National Guardsmen assembled in Charlotte, N.C., preparing for what could be another night of violent protests. A man who was shot during Wednesday night’s protests died at the hospital today. Officials said police did not shoot 26-year-old Justin Carr and they are investigating his death as a homicide.
UPDATE (9/22/16, 4:25 p.m.): An attorney for the family of Keith Lamont Scott, the man shot and killed by police in Charlotte on Tuesday, said the family is wary of police releasing video of the incident.
“These videos don’t always hold all the answers and … everyone needs to reserve judgment until we know all the facts,” attorney Justin Bamberg said in a press conference. The family is scheduled to view the video later today.
Releasing the video publicly could be traumatic for the family, Bamberg said, noting they also want the truth about what happened to Scott. Bamberg said Scott was a father of seven who had been married for 20 years and did not own a handgun. Family members say Scott was holding a book when he was shot, while police say he had a gun and ignored commands to drop it. Witness accounts vary as to what Scott was holding and when, Bamberg said.
UPDATE (9/22/16, 12:15 p.m.): Police Chief Kerr Putney does not plan to immediately release video of the recent police shooting that prompted two nights of violent protests in Charlotte, N.C.
During a news conference this morning, Putney said the video does not definitively show Keith Lamont Scott, the 43-year-old African-American shot and killed by police, pointing a gun. Putney maintains officers repeatedly told Scott to drop the gun he allegedly had in his hand before they opened fire. Scott’s family insists he had nothing with him other than a book, which he was reading while he waited to pick up a child from the school bus stop.
Putney said he plans to let Scott’s family see the video and only then decide whether to release it to the public.
“Right now my priority is the people who really are the victims of the shooting,” Putney said. “I’m telling you right now if you think I say we should display a victim’s worst day for consumption; that is not the transparency I’m speaking of.”
Three officers at the scene of the shooting were wearing body cameras.
District Attorney R. Andrew Murray has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to investigate the shooting, at the request of Scott’s family.
After last night’s violence, Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency and called up the National Guard, as well as additional officers from the State Highway Patrol, in preparation for protests expected again tonight. But Putney said he did not think the city needed to institute a curfew, a measure suggested by Mayor Jennifer Roberts.
Charlotte’s downtown streets have been quiet this morning, with several companies with offices in the area telling employees to stay home today.
UPDATE (11:01 p.m.): More violence erupted Wednesday night in Charlotte, N.C., in response to the Tuesday death of Keith Lamont Scott at the hands of police. One man was shot and critically wounded Wednesday night near the upscale Omni Hotel after an angry group of protesters broke away from a peaceful prayer vigil and marched through downtown Charlotte. The man was not shot by police, according to the city’s official Twitter account, and is in critical condition and on life support at a local hospital. Earlier erroneous reports Wednesday night said the man had died.
Police in riot gear later fired flash grenades at downtown protesters who were throwing fireworks at them. Police then began firing tear gas in an effort to disperse the crowd. There were also reports of looting in the downtown area.
OUR EARLIER REPORT: Violent protests erupted Tuesday night in Charlotte, N.C., after police shot an African-American man. Protesters demolished police cars, stopped traffic on Interstate 85, looting tractor-trailers and setting their contents on fire before police dispersed the crowd with tear gas. Police said 16 officers suffered minor injuries.
The protesters took to the streets after the Tuesday afternoon shooting at an apartment complex, where police were serving a warrant. While there, they saw Keith Lamont Scott, 43, get out of a car with a gun. He got back in the car, and when he came out again, still with a gun, an officer shot him, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department spokesman Keith Trietley said.
This morning, Police Chief Kerr Putney emphasized in a press conference that officers gave Scott multiple warnings to drop the gun and opened fire when he did not comply.
A Facebook post Tuesday by a woman claiming to be Scott’s daughter disputed the police account and said he was unarmed and waiting to pick up a child from the school bus stop when he was shot. In the hourlong video, the woman appears to be at the shooting scene yelling at officers. It’s unclear whether she witnessed the shooting.
“It’s time to change the narrative because I can tell you from the facts that the story’s a little bit different as to how it’s been portrayed so far, especially through social media,” Putney said.
The African-American officer who shot Scott has been placed on administrative leave during the investigation. WSOC-TV in Charlotte reported the officer was not wearing a body camera but others on the scene might have been. Putney said he cannot release the video, but grieved parties can have access to it, WSOC reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Mickey is executive editor of WORLD Digital.