Third Night of Charlotte Protests Largely Peaceful

Charlotte, North Carolina

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The family of Keith Lamont Scott, who was shot and killed by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Tuesday, wants video of the incident publicly released.

9:25 a.m. (all times Eastern)

A third round of protests in Charlotte, North Carolina on Thursday night and early Friday morning was largely peaceful, according to The Charlotte Observer and other news outlets. A group of demonstrators did at one point move onto Interstate 277, but they were cleared away from the roadway by police. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said on Twitter late Thursday night that two officers were receiving medical treatment after demonstrators sprayed them with a "chemical agent." North Carolina National Guard troops and state police were deployed to Charlotte to assist local authorities on Thursday. The protests were sparked by the fatal police shooting earlier this week of Keith Lamont Scott.

Some of the key developments that took place in Charlotte on Wednesday and Thursday are outlined below.

8:33 p.m.

A man who was shot during demonstrations in Charlotte, North Carolina on Wednesday night has died, according to The Associated Press and other news outlets. WBTV reported Thursday evening that the man, identified as 26-year-old Justin Carr, had been shot in the head. Earlier in the day, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief Kerr Putney said the man was in critical condition. The shooting is under investigation, with the city saying it did not involve police.

7:58 p.m.

The family of Keith Lamont Scott is requesting that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department publicly release video footage of the shooting incident that led to his death, according to a statement the family's attorney released Thursday evening.

"After watching the videos, the family again has more questions than answers," said a copy of the statement, posted online by the local television station WCNC-TV.

"It is impossible to discern from the videos what, if anything, Mr. Scott is holding in his hands," the statement added. "When he was shot and killed, Mr. Scott's hands were by his side and he was slowly walking backwards."

Citing witness accounts and evidence from the scene of the shooting gathered as part of a CMPD investigation, the city of Charlotte has said that Scott was armed with a handgun and "posed an imminent deadly threat" to police officers in the moments before he was shot.

The statement from Scott's family went on to say: "as a matter of the greater good and transparency, the Scott family asks that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department publicly immediately release both of the videos they watched today."

The family urged those protesting in response to the incident to do so peacefully.

6:21 p.m.

North Carolina's State Bureau of Investigation has initiated an independent investigation into the fatal shooting earlier this week of Keith Lamont Scott by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer, Gov. Pat McCrory said Thursday afternoon.

The Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office asked for the investigation in response to a request from Scott's family. In a statement issued Thursday, the District Attorney's Office also said it had been in contact with the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice, and is providing them information to assist with their review of the incident.

Attorneys for Scott's family, meanwhile, held a televised news conference Thursday afternoon and said arrangements had been made for the family to watch video footage later in the day of the police encounter that led to Scott's death.

One of the lawyers, Justin Bamberg, said the family could not say at this point whether they would support the public release of the video footage, because they did not yet know what it showed. Earlier in the day, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief Kerr Putney said there were no immediate plans to make the footage available to the general public.

Asked whether Scott commonly carried a gun, Bamberg replied: "My understanding, based on talking with his family, is that he did not own a gun, that he did not habitually carry a gun."

Police have said Scott was armed with a handgun at the time when he was shot.

About a year ago, Bamberg said, Scott was involved in an accident where he was injured and sustained injuries, including a head trauma. 

Scott's wife witnessed him get shot and killed, according to Bamberg. "That's something she will never, ever forget," he said.

3:16 p.m.

After a second night of violent demonstrations in the city left one man critically injured by gunfire and a number of establishments vandalized and looted, authorities in Charlotte, North Carolina, said Thursday morning they would hold off putting a curfew in place and that the National Guard and state police would provide needed support for local law enforcement.

Although Mayor ​​Jennifer Roberts stressed that the city was “open for business as usual,” major employers located in Charlotte’s central business district told workers to stay home Thursday. In response to the unrest, which was sparked by the fatal shooting of a black man on Tuesday by a police officer, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency around 11 p.m. Wednesday, allowing for North Carolina National Guard troops to be deployed to Charlotte.

Two police officers sustained minor eye injuries and nine civilians were also hurt during the course of Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief Kerr Putney said at a Thursday morning news conference. There were 44 arrests, he added, with charges ranging from failure to disperse, to assault, to breaking and entering.

“We had a lot of looting,” Putney said, “And a lot of businesses, quite a few businesses, that were damaged.”

At one point, a group of demonstrators blocked traffic on Interstate 277, near the center of the city. And the Charlotte Area Transit System temporarily suspended LYNX light rail and bus services. The previous night, a group halted traffic on a section of Interstate 85.  

“We couldn’t be as responsive as we needed to be, as quickly as we needed to be, because our resources were being pulled in so many directions” Putney said.

He added that: “People were violating the law, they were in huge numbers.”

Looking ahead to what Thursday might bring, Putney said, “we’re going to be a lot more proactive.” He said there would be several hundred more personnel deployed on the city’s streets to keep order. “You will see a heavy uniformed presence,” he said. As for the curfew, he said, “right now, we don’t see the need to shut the city down at a specific hour.”

Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Duke Energy told employees told employees not to report to offices in Charlotte on Thursday, according to The Charlotte Observer.

Details surrounding the death of the man killed by police, Keith Lamont Scott, 43, remain unclear. Putney said police video of the incident would be made available for Scott’s family to view, at their request. But he said there were no immediate plans to release the footage to the public.

He also said the video footage he had seen did not show Scott pointing a gun at officers. “The video does not give me absolute, definitive, visual evidence that would confirm that a person is pointing a gun. I did not see that in the videos that I reviewed.”

But Putney said that alongside other evidence the video supports claims that officers faced an imminent deadly threat from Scott. According to a police investigation, Scott was parked at an apartment complex when he exited his car armed with a handgun and did not follow officer commands to drop the weapon. The officer who shot Scott is Brentley Vinson, who is black.

Scott’s family and others have said he was unarmed when he was killed, and was reading a book in his car. Putney has said no book was found at the scene.

The man who was shot during the demonstrations on Wednesday night remained in critical condition on Thursday, Putney said. According to the city, the shooting did not involve police. But Putney on Thursday acknowledged an allegation that an officer may have been involved, and said the incident remained under investigation.

Due to the size of the crowds that had gathered, police decided to remove the wounded man from the Omni Hotel in downtown Charlotte using an armored BearCat vehicle, Putney said.

Wednesday night’s demonstrations began peacefully, but took a chaotic turn around 8 p.m. when people began jumping on vehicles, according to Putney. The call about the shooting incident came in around 8:30 p.m. Shortly thereafter, police used gas to disperse crowds. Protesters continued to move through the city until around 3 a.m.

Bill Lucia is a Reporter for Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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