Riots and arson ensued last night in Charlotte, North Carolina, in reaction to the shooting death of a 43-year-old black man at the hands of local police. Keith Lamont Scott was fatally shot by police yesterday at an apartment complex. Family members claim that he was disabled. The officer who shot him has been identified by WJZY-TV as Officer Brentley Vinson.
Local media reports that the death occurred in the parking lot at the Village at College Downs apartment complex on Old Concord Road in Charlotte just before 4 p.m. on September 20. Reportedly, officers on the Metro Division Crime Reduction Unit were seeking to serve an arrest warrant, but not on Scott. Police told a local newspaper that Scott was armed and a firearm was found at the scene by detectives. According to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney, the responding officers considered their lives were in danger. At least one of them shot Scott, according to the Charlotte Observer.
Scott was waiting for his daughter to return from school
After the shooting, Scott was rushed to a local hospital, where he expired. A married man, Scott had seven children.
“Officers observed a subject inside a vehicle in the apartment complex,” declared a police press release. “The subject exited the vehicle armed with a firearm. Officers observed the subject get back into the vehicle at which time they began to approach the subject.”
“The subject got back out of the vehicle armed with a firearm and posed an imminent deadly threat to officers who subsequently fired their weapon striking the subject,” police said.
Speaking in Kenansville, North Carolina, last night, Trump zeroed in on economic malaise in America's black communities. He also faced a backlash on social media for saying that black Americans are “in the worst shape they’ve ever been” during a rally there. "We're going to rebuild our inner cities because our African American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they've ever been in before. Ever, ever, ever,” Trump said at the Duplin County Events Center, where thousands of fans came out in support.
“You take a look at the inner cities, you get no education, you get no jobs, you get shot walking down the street. They're worse, I mean honestly, places like Afghanistan are safer than some of our inner cities,” Trump said yesterday. “And I say to the African American communities and I think it's resonating, because you see what's happening with my poll numbers with African Americans. They're going, like, high."
Today he took to Twitter to lament the violence that ensued in Charlotte after Scott's death. He also referenced the unclarified shooting death of a black pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last week.
In a press conference today, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney that Scott refused orders to drop the gun he was holding. He said detectives found the gun “in close proximity” to Scott. “The officers gave loud, clear verbal commands that were also heard by many of the witnesses,” Putney said. “They were instructing the subject, once he got out of the vehicle, to drop the weapon. Despite the verbal commands, Mr. Scott exited the vehicle as the officers continued to yell at him to drop it. He stepped out, posing a threat to the officers, and Officer Brentley Vinson subsequently fired his weapon, striking the subject.”
Putney said the gun was first seen when Scott exited the vehicle the second time. He could not say whether or not Scott pointed a gun at an officer.
Surviving members of his family disagree with the police account of Scott’s death. They claim that Scott was reading a book in his car while waiting for his son to be dropped off by a school bus. His brother told reporters that the officer who shot Scott was in plainclothes.
Police say Scott was armed
Putney said “I can tell you a weapon was seized, a handgun, I can also tell you we did not find a book that was made reference to. We did find a weapon, and the witnesses corroborated it to, beyond just the officers.” The police chief verified that Officer Vinson was in plainclothes, but was wearing a vest on with CMPD and police on the front and back. Uniformed officers were also at the scene, Putney said. He did not know whether or not Scott’s gun was loaded or if it was legally owned.
Putney said that officers “immediately requested” a medic and “began performing CPR” after Scott was shot. Putney said at the press conference today, “it’s time to change the narrative. Because I can tell you from the facts, that the story is a little bit different as to how it’s been portrayed so far, especially through social media.”
Sixteen officers injured in rioting
Last night, police say that 16 officers were injured during rioting that followed Scott’s shooting death. Officers dressed in riot gear used tear gas to disperse hundreds of raucous protesters who gathered near the scene, facing off with riot-gear-clad police. Some police vehicles were damaged. Protesters went on to Interstate 85, shutting down traffic. Police said that they are prepared for further protests tonight. Putney said, “We are hoping for the best, preparing for the worst,” he said.
The police department tweeted: “Civil Emergency Unit deployed to safely remove our officers from old concord. … Demonstrators surrounded our officers who were attempting to leave scene. A number of agitators have joined demonstrators.” Police said that an officer “sustained injuries in an attempt to de-escalate agitators during demonstration.” The injuries were not life-threatening, police said. In another tweet, police said, “Several officers injured tonight working to protect our community during demonstration.”
“I will continue to work with our manager & Chief on officer involved shooting. We are reaching out to community to ask for calm,” Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts tweeted.
At least one arrest was made, while an investigation into the unrest is continuing and more could be made. Looters robbed semi-trucks on the interstate highway and burned the contents.
Officer Vinson has served in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department since 2014. He graduated Liberty University and also had a post-graduate year at Fork Union Military School.
Justice Department is looking into it
“As is standard procedure with any officer-involved shooting, the Internal Affairs Bureau will conduct a separate, but parallel, investigation to determine whether CMPD policies and procedures were adhered to during the course of the incident,” police said. Even while Vinson was not wearing a body-cam, other officers at the scene were so equipped. There is camera footage of the incident. Chief Putney said, “The videos that I have reviewed, I cannot see in totality everything that occurred.” Investigators are going through all the footage, Putney said. North Carolina recently enacted a law that restrict public access to police shooting videos. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said today that the federal Justice Department is “aware of” and is “assessing” the Charlotte shooting.
So far this year, Scott is the sixth person killed by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, according to WSOC-TV. The district attorney’s office found the first five shootings to be justified. Tensions have been high since last year following the mistral in a voluntary manslaughter case against Charlotte-Mecklenburg officer Randall Kerrick, who killed Jonathan Ferrell, an unarmed 24-year-old former college football player in 2013. North Carolina did not seek a retrial against Kerrick. The case sparked outrage in the community.
On the leftist DailyKos website, commenter LesBoyd wrote of the killing:
"Look, I get it -- our country is gun crazy. This culture of swaggering cowboys is a dangerous thing for police, who never know whether someone is holding a gun or a wallet -- or a book.
"But it's hard to believe police when most of the mistakes are made when police are facing people of color.
"Scott was not perfect. He had a record and was convicted of misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon 12 years ago.
"But a 12-year-old misdemeanor charge does not warrant the death penalty, especially when whites routinely are taken into custody alive after heinous crimes."