CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — 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. Broken glass and rocks littered the ground where a police car had been vandalized. Less than 5 miles away, wooden pallets barricaded the entrance of a Wal-Mart that had apparently been looted.
Detectives recovered a gun at the scene and were interviewing witnesses.
“The officers gave loud, clear verbal commands, which were also heard by many of the witnesses,” the police chief said.
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts appealed for calm while B.J. Murphy, an outspoken leader of the Nation of Islam, called for an economic boycott of the city. He said if “black lives don’t matter, black money shouldn’t matter.”
The protest in Charlotte came hours after hundreds of people rallied outside Tulsa police headquarters, calling for the firing of police officer Betty Shelby, who shot 40-year-old Terence Crutcher on Friday during a confrontation in the middle of a road that was captured on police dashcam and helicopter video.
Shelby’s attorney has said Crutcher was not following the officers’ commands and that Shelby was concerned because he kept reaching for his pocket as if he were carrying a weapon. An attorney representing Crutcher’s family says Crutcher committed no crime and gave officers no reason to shoot him.
Local and federal investigations into that shooting are ongoing and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the Justice Department was in regular contact with Charlotte officials.
“These tragic incidents have once again left Americans with feelings of sorrow, anger and uncertainty,” she said at the International Bar Association Conference in Washington. “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.”