Charlotte, NC – A dramatic protest following the fatal shooting of an African-American man resulted in smashed windows, vandalized cars, shutting down of the freeway, looting, and 16 police officers injured Tuesday night.
Keith Lamont Scott, 43, had been repeatedly warned by Charlotte police to drop his handgun. The commands were so loud and clear they were heard well by many of the witnesses. As Scott failed to comply with instructions, Officer Brentley Vinson, also an African-American, shot Scott perceiving him as a threat, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney.
Chief Putney said officers were searching for a suspect with an outstanding warrant Tuesday afternoon at The Village at College Downs when they observed Scott exiting a vehicle with a gun. Officers yelled at him to drop it, but he ignored the commands, and that’s when Vinson fired.
Officer Vinson was placed on administrative leave while the investigation unfolds.
There are claims that Scott was holding a book, not a firearm at the time he was shot. Chief Putney spoke at a news conference Wednesday rejecting that claim. He said the gun had been recovered by detectives and no book was found.
A video from AP shows an unnamed woman who said she was Scott’s sister, insisting that Scott had no gun and that police got it wrong.
“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 added. “It’s a tragic event, and my heart goes out to the Scott family for their loss.”
Officers requested medical help and performed CPR on Scott, according to FoxNews report. He was taken to Carolinas Medical Center and pronounced dead.
Some residents say the neighborhood was once quiet and safe. But Tuesday night, as more protesters gathered near the scene of the shooting, the tranquility was broken. Police blocked access to the area, which is a mile away from the campus of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Some protesters were heard yelling “Black lives matter,” and “Hands up, don’t shoot!” One person held up a sign saying “Stop Killing Us.”
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts appealed for calm and tweeted, “the community deserves answers.”
In the hours that followed, Putney said demonstrators, joined by “agitators,” damaged at least two police cars, set fire to a trailer, looted a Walmart store and shut down part of Interstate 85. One arrest was made, he said.
Putney said Vinson was not wearing a body camera. Police dash cams recorded part of the confrontation, and the videos were being reviewed.
An outspoken leader of the Nation of Islam, B.J. Murphy, encouraged an economic boycott of Charlotte at a news conference of black leaders. He called on “all black people to keep your money in your pocket. Let everybody feel the pain economically of what we are feeling physically when you kill us.”
The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce expressed its condolences to the Scott family, as well as those injured in the protests while calling on business owners to be prepared for new violence. It said businesses should “keep everything as normal as possible,” but also secure or remove tables, chairs, signs, and planters.
“These tragic incidents have once again left Americans with feelings of sorrow, anger, and uncertainty,’’ U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said as she also referred to the fatal shooting of an unarmed man by a Tulsa police officer that took place four days earlier. “They have once again highlighted – in the most vivid and painful terms – the real divisions that still persist in this nation between law enforcement and communities of color.’’
Gov. Pat McCrory issued a statement pledging support for Putney and Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts in their efforts to “keep the community calm and to get this situation resolved.”
State Highway Patrol is sending in troopers to further help the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department. Additional state resources nearby.
— Pat McCrory (@PatMcCroryNC) September 22, 2016
— Fox News (@FoxNews) September 22, 2016
“People are watching how we respond, how we react,” Police Chief Putney said. “I’m optimistic we will have positive outcomes, but it’s time for the voiceless majority to stand up and be heard.”
Lynch said the Justice Department opened a civil rights probe into the death of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa and was “assessing” Scott’s death.