Tension over video grows in Charlotte
Investigation cited in refusal to release cop shooting tapes
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte police refused under mounting pressure Thursday to release video that could resolve wildly differing accounts of the shooting of a black man, as the National Guard arrived to try to head off a third night of violence.
The family of Keith Lamont Scott, 43, demanded police release the video after showing them the footage at their request. The family’s lawyer said he couldn’t tell whether Scott was holding a gun.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Chief Kerr Putney said that releasing police dashcam and body camera footage of Scott’s killing could undermine the investigation. He told reporters the video will be made public when he believes there is a “compelling reason” to do so.
“You shouldn’t expect it to be released,” Putney said. “I’m not going to jeopardize the investigation.”
The city’s mayor, Jennifer Roberts, declared a curfew Thursday that will run from midnight to 6 a.m.
Roberts said the citywide curfew will be in place until officials determine they no longer need it.
Meanwhile, an undisclosed number of National Guardsmen assembled in Charlotte, sent in by Gov. Pat McCrory after a second night of racial unrest that seemed at odds with Charlotte’s image as a diverse, forward-looking banking capital of the New South.
Charlotte is just the latest U.S. city to be shaken by protests and recriminations over the death of a black man at the hands of police, a list that includes Baltimore, Milwaukee, Chicago, New York and Ferguson, Mo. In Tulsa, Okla., on Thursday, prosecutors charged a white officer Police officers in riot gear stand at the ready in downtown Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday. with manslaughter for killing an unarmed black man on a city street last week.
In Charlotte, scores of rioters Wednesday night attacked reporters and others, set fires and smashed windows of hotels, office buildings and restaurants in the city’s bustling downtown.
Forty-four people were arrested, and one protester who was shot died at the hospital Thursday; city officials said that police did not shoot the man and that no arrests have been made in 26-year-old Justin Carr’s death.
On Thursday, in a measure of how tense things had become, three of Charlotte’s major employers — Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Duke Energy — told thousands of employees not to venture into the city.
In addition to the National Guardsmen, North Carolina state troopers and U.S. Justice Department conflictresolution experts were sent to keep the peace.
Police have said that Scott was shot to death Tuesday by a black officer after he disregarded repeated warnings to drop his gun. Neighbors, though, have said he was holding a book. The police chief said that a gun was found next to the dead man.
Putney said that he has seen the video and it does not contain “absolute, definitive evidence that would confirm that a person was pointing a gun.” But he added: “When taken in the totality of all the other evidence, it supports what we said.”
Justin Bamberg, an attorney for Scott’s family, watched the video with the slain man’s relatives. He said Scott gets out of his vehicle calmly.
“While police did give him several commands, he did not aggressively approach them or raise his hands at members of law enforcement at any time. It is impossible to discern from the videos what, if anything, Mr. Scott is holding in his hands,” Bamberg said in a statement.
Scott was shot as he walked slowly backward with his hands by his side, Bamberg said.