By Jeffrey Collins
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Police officers gave a black man multiple warnings to drop a handgun before one of the officers opened fire and killed him, Charlotte’s police chief said Wednesday, hours after protesters and police clashed in unrest that saw tractor-trailers looted and set on fire.
More than a dozen officers were injured, including one who was hit in the face with a rock. Authorities had to use tear gas to disperse the protests in North Carolina’s largest city, which joins Milwaukee, Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, on the list of U.S. cities that erupted in violence over the death of black men at the hands of police.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said during a news conference that 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott was shot because he was armed and posed a threat. But a woman who said she was Scott’s daughter posted a video on Facebook soon after the shooting, saying that her father, who had an unspecified disability, was holding a book, not a gun.
“My daddy is dead,” the woman says, screaming and crying on the video.
The police chief said the black officer who shot Scott was a plainclothes officer wearing a vest with “Police” on it. The officer did not have a body camera, but three uniformed officers who engaged the suspect were required to wear body cameras.
The North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union urged Charlotte police to release any footage of the shooting, but Putney said he couldn’t because of an ongoing investigation.
The ACLU noted that a new law restricting release of such footage doesn’t take effect until Oct. 1. That new law says footage from police body or dashboard cameras can’t be released publicly without a court order.
The chief said officers were searching for a suspect when they saw Scott exit a vehicle with a handgun. He said the officers told him to drop the gun and that he got out of the vehicle a second time still carrying the gun.
“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,” he said.
His comments were an apparent reference to the profanity-laced, hourlong Facebook video, which was taken down Wednesday. In the video, the woman appears to be at the shooting scene, which is surrounded by yellow police tape, as she yells at officers.
The woman did not respond to Facebook messages, and her claims could not immediately be verified by The Associated Press. It also was not clear if she witnessed the shooting.The black officer who shot Scott, Brently Vinson, has been placed on administrative leave as is standard procedure in such cases. Vinson has been with the department for two years.
Police said the protests broke out around 7 p.m. Tuesday, about three hours after the shooting. TV footage showed dozens of protesters on Interstate 85 apparently looting semi-trucks and setting their contents on fire on the highway, shutting the highway down.
The police chief said 16 officers suffered mostly minor injuries and police cars were damaged after people began throwing rocks.By 5 a.m. Wednesday, the streets were quiet and I-85 was moving again.