Violent clashes erupted Tuesday afternoon and into the evening after police in Charlotte, North Carolina fatally shot a Black man they say was armed with a gun. Witnesses and relatives of the man dispute that, and say that he was holding only a book when police approached him as he stepped from his car.
Twelve police officers were injured in overnight clashes with protesters,and police firing tear gas into the crowd, according to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. As dawn broke over the city Wednesday, scores of protesters blocked a major transportation corridor in the south east, Interstate 85, or I-85.
The man who was shot and killed was identified late Tuesday as Keith Lamont Scott. The officer who fired the fatal shot was identified as Officer Brentley Vinson, a police statement said. The statement confirmed both men were Black, according to the Charlotte Observer.
According to news reports, the demonstrations began peacefully, with some people chanting “Black lives matter” and “hands up, don’t shoot.” News reports and posts on social media later showed police in riot gear firing tear gas and rubber bullets at the demonstrators and some people smashing out the windows of police cars.
Police Terror in US
Along a stretch of I-85, protesters opened up the backs of tractor trailers stopped on the highway, took out boxes and set them on fire in the middle of the highway, WSOC reported. The station spoke to one truck driver who said people stole cargo from her trailer. Police reportedly used flash grenades to break up the crowd and had cleared the highway by early morning.
Local WSOC-TV reported that after the shooting, relatives of the slain man confronted police officers at the scene and a crowd of several dozen people quickly gathered to protest.
A neighbor told the station’s reporter Mark Becker that "the man did not have a gun," saying he was "armed with a book," Becker said in a tweet Tuesday as he spoke to people at the scene of the shooting.
Other family members at the scene told Becker that Scott was “reading a book and did not have a weapon.” The Root reported that the slain man was disabled without identifying the disability.
The victim's brother told WCNC-TV that the officer involved in the shooting was undercover and not wearing a uniform.
"He was waiting on his son to get from school and police came out with no ... he didn't have on no uniform to determine if he was a police or not ... he was an undercover and he just jumped out and yelled 'gun' and shot at him," the brother said. "I think they shot him four times. I'm not sure, but he's dead."
Scott's sister told the same station that her brother did not have a gun and also said the officer who shot him had no uniform on. "They jumped out their truck. They said, 'Hands up! He got a gun! He got a gun!' Pow, pow, pow, pow," she said. "That's it. He didn't have no gun."
However, the police statement said the man was armed and that the weapon he had was recovered from the scene of the shooting.
Police public affairs officer Keith Trietley said officers from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department were at an apartment complex searching for a suspect with an outstanding warrant, when they saw a man get out of his vehicle with a firearm.
"Officers observed the subject get back into the vehicle at which time they began to approach the subject,” he said in a statement to the press.
“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," he continued.
WSOC-TV reported the slain man was not the suspect sought by the police officers.
Trietley said the department's internal affairs bureau would conduct a separate investigation, which was standard procedure, and that the officers would be placed on administrative leave.
Police have killed 193 Black people in 2016 alone, according to "The Counted," a database set up by The Guardian to document police killing in the United States. In 2015, over 300 Black people were killed by police in the country.