One person shot in second night of unrest, protests in Charlotte after fatal police shooting

Photo: Brian Blanco/ Getty Images.

One person suffered life-threatening injuries after being shot on Wednesday in a second night of unrest in Charlotte, North Carolina, officials said, as police in riot gear fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a demonstration against the fatal police shooting of a black man who officers said had refused their orders to drop a handgun.

An earlier report from Charlotte city officials that the wounded man died was retracted by the city of Charlotte some time later, saying the victim was on life-support.

Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney initially confirmed the fatality, but he did not identify the person nor did he say whether they were participating in the protests.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency late Wednesday night and said he deployed the National Guard to assist local law enforcement in handling the protests.

The latest trouble began with a peaceful rally that turned violent after several hundred demonstrators marched through downtown with brief stops at a black church, police headquarters and a large entertainment venue called the EpiCentre.

As they approached downtown Charlotte’s central intersection, protesters confronted a column of patrol cars and officers lining the road about a block from the Omni Charlotte Hotel, and began to surround groups of police and their vehicles.

At that point, police unleashed volleys of rubber bullets, tear gas and flash-bang grenades to disperse the protesters, who began hurling fireworks and debris at officers outside the hotel.

Protesters were also seen looting a convenience store after smashing its windows.

The Charlotte Hornets NBA team’s store was also broken into during the protests.

Images on social media showed several of the store’s windows had been broken and police stationed outside the storefront.

Sixteen officers were injured late on Tuesday and early Wednesday as police in riot gear clashed with demonstrators who hurled stones, set fires and briefly blocked an interstate highway.

“We are tired of people, especially police, killing our black men,” Blanche Penn, a longtime community activist, said at Wednesday evening’s rally, where the mood began as resolute but peaceful. “Charlotte has always been quiet. But now it’s time to be loud.”

Widely differing accounts of Tuesday’s shooting emerged the next day. Police said Keith Scott, 43, was armed and ignoring officers’ orders when he was gunned down, while the victim’s family and a witness said he was holding a book, not a weapon.

Authorities have not released any video of the incident, but the city’s mayor said they plan to.

Scott’s wife, Rakeyia, issued a statement describing her family as “devastated” and appealing for calm, adding, “we have more questions than answers about Keith’s death.”

Tuesday’s disturbances in Charlotte unfolded as demonstrators in Tulsa, Oklahoma, demanded the arrest of a police officer seen in video last week fatally shooting an unarmed black man who had his hands in clear view at the time.

The deaths were the latest incidents to raise questions of racial bias in U.S. law enforcement, and they stoked a national debate on policing ahead of the presidential election in November. President Barack Obama spoke by telephone on Wednesday with the mayors of Charlotte and Tulsa, a White House official said.

The deaths were the latest incidents to raise questions of racial bias in U.S. law enforcement, and they stoked a national debate on policing ahead of the presidential election in November. President Barack Obama spoke by telephone on Wednesday with the mayors of Charlotte and Tulsa, a White House official said.

High-profile police shootings in New York, Chicago, Ferguson, Missouri, and other cities have sparked more than two years of largely peaceful protests punctuated by days of unrest and arson while giving rise to the Black Lives Matter civil rights movement.

U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said such killings were unbearable. Her Republican rival, Donald Trump, questioned what the Tulsa officer was thinking in shooting a man he said appeared to pose no imminent threat.

Investigations have been opened in both cities, and the U.S. Justice Department has started a separate probe into the Oklahoma incident to see if officers’ use of force amounted to a civil rights violation.

Charlotte’s police chief, Kerr Putney, said officers had surrounded Scott’s car in an apartment complex parking lot Tuesday afternoon after seeing him with a handgun. Scott was shot by a black police officer after Scott exited the car and disregarded orders to drop his weapon, Putney said.

“We did not find a book,” Putney told a news conference. “We did find a weapon.”

Local resident Taheshia Williams said she saw the incident from her balcony about 100 feet (30 meters) away, and that she watched Scott get out of his car with his hands raised.

“Hands up. No gun. When he got out of the car, a book fell off his lap,” Williams told reporters on Wednesday. She said she heard Scott ask police what he had done wrong, could not hear their reply, then heard four shots.

“It’s a cover-up. They made a mistake, and they’re doing their best to make sure they cover up that mistake,” she said.

‘Open to showing video’

Black activists and pastors called for an economic boycott of the city, and the American Civil Liberties Union urged police to release body and dashboard camera footage from the incident.

Police said officer Brentley Vinson was in plainclothes when he shot Scott and was not wearing a body camera.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts told CNN she had not seen any video from the scene, but that Putney told her footage was recorded by cameras worn by other police officers and mounted on patrol cars.

“The chief is very open to showing that video … not just to elected officials, but also to community leaders,” she said. “We have done that in the past. We plan to do that this time.”

Video of the shooting in Oklahoma, meanwhile, has fueled calls for the arrest of Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby, who is white, for the killing on Friday of Terence Crutcher, 40, whose sport utility vehicle blocked a road after breaking down.

Shelby’s lawyer has said she had feared for her life, believing Crutcher was reaching into his vehicle for a weapon. Lawyers for the Crutcher family released still images from police videos showing the car window was shut and said the use of force was not justified.

(Additional Reuters reporting by Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton in Tulsa, Okla., Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, N.C., Emily Flitter in Cleveland, Amanda Becker in Orlando, Fla., and Gina Cherelus and Laila Kearney in New York; Writing by Jon Herskovitz and Daniel Wallis; Editing by James Dalgleish and Alan Crosby)

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