‘The police just shot my daddy four times for being black’

Protests erupt in Charlotte after police shoot dead black man while trying to serve warrant

Demonstrators confront police at an apartment complex in Charlotte, North Carolina where police had fatally shot a man earlier in the day. Video: Reuters

 

Demonstrators clashed with police officers in riot gear late Tuesday in Charlotte, North Carolina, after police officers shot and killed a black man while trying to serve a warrant on another person at an apartment complex.

The shooting, which occurred just before 4pm Eastern time, and the subsequent protest in the University City neighbourhood in northeast Charlotte revived scrutiny of a police department that last drew substantial national attention about three years ago, when a white officer was quickly charged with voluntary manslaughter after he killed an unarmed black man.

The circumstances of Tuesday’s shooting were, at least according to the police, far different.

Department officials said an officer had opened fire because the black man, Keith L Scott (43) who they said was armed with a gun, “posed an imminent deadly threat”.

Although their accounts sometimes diverged, members of Scott’s family generally told local news outlets that he had not had a weapon.

Instead, they said, he had been clutching a book while waiting to pick up a child after school.

The police said late Tuesday that “agitators” were “destroying marked police units” and that officers were working “to restore order and protect our community.”

The police said early Wednesday that about a dozen officers had been injured; one officer was hit in the face with a rock.

Amid a handful of social media posts, Mayor Jennifer Roberts urged calm in her city of about 827,000 people, 35 per cent of whom are black.

“The community deserves answers and full investigation will ensue,” Ms Roberts said on her Twitter account after police officers deployed what witnesses said they believed was tear gas or smoke. “Will be reaching out to community leaders to work together.”

The shooting in Charlotte was the latest in a long string of deaths of black people at the hands of the police that have stoked outrage around the country.

It came just a few days after a white police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, fatally shot an unarmed black man who could be seen on video raising his hands above his head.

The encounters, many of them at least partly caught on video, have led to intense debate about race relations and law enforcement. In Charlotte, dozens of chanting demonstrators, some of them holding signs, began gathering near the site of the shooting Tuesday evening.

Around 10pm, the Police Department said on Twitter it had sent its civil emergency unit to the scene “to safely remove our officers.”

“Demonstrators surrounded our officers who were attempting to leave scene,” the department said. It identified the officer who fired his weapon as Brentley Vinson, an employee since July 2014. Vinson is black, according to local reports.

According to the department, officers saw Scott leave a vehicle with a weapon soon after they arrived at the apartment complex. “Officers observed the subject get back into the vehicle, at which time they began to approach the subject,” the department said in its first statement about the shooting.

“The subject got back out of the vehicle armed with a firearm and posed an imminent deadly threat to the officers, who subsequently fired their weapon, striking the subject.”

A police spokesman did not respond to an after-hours inquiry about whether a dashboard or body camera had recorded the shooting. The police chief, Kerr Putney, acknowledged at a news conference that Scott had not been the subject of the warrant.

On Facebook, a woman who identified herself as Scott’s daughter said that the police had fired without provocation.

“The police just shot my daddy four times for being black,” the woman said moments into a Facebook Live broadcast that lasted about an hour.

Later in the broadcast, she learned that her father had died and speculated that the police were planting evidence. (The police said that investigators had recovered a weapon.)

Protesters remained on the streets early Wednesday, and there were reports that some had blocked nearby I-85.

A livestream of the shutdown showed some protesters looting trucks that had been stopped on the highway and setting the cargo on fire.

In September 2013, officials charged a Charlotte police officer with voluntary manslaughter after he fired a dozen rounds at an unarmed black man, killing him. The criminal case against the officer, Randall Kerrick, ended in a mistrial, and the authorities did not seek to try him again.

The department, which said Tuesday that Vinson had been placed on administrative leave, said it was conducting “an active and ongoing investigation” into the killing of Scott.

New York Times