A US sheriff has called for calm after a white police officer shot an unarmed black man in a stolen car – amid some witness claims that the 28-year-old had his hands up.
As protests against alleged police brutality continue to rage across America, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said during a news conference in Orlando, Florida: “I ask everyone to not rush to judgment and allow the investigation to be completed.”
Cedric Bartee was critically wounded by Sergeant Robert McCarthy in the incident at an apartment complex early on Monday morning.
He underwent surgery and was in stable but critical condition late in the afternoon, the sheriff said. A second man in the car was arrested unhurt.
Demings, who himself is African American and was surrounded by six religious leaders from the black community, said Bartee failed to comply with McCarthy's commands and “made extensive furtive movements,” making the deputy fear for his safety.
He added that investigators have found conflicting eyewitness accounts.
Some witnesses said Bartee had his hands up when the McCarthy fired three shots, one of which hit him.
The sheriff said that he was trying to be transparent in holding the press conference “because of the backdrop of everything happening in the country at this time.”
He added the potential reaction of the public was “concerning to me“.
In pictures: Protests over death of Eric Garner
Last night over 200 protesters gathered outside the Barclays Centre in New York City, chanting “Hands Up, Don't Shoot” and “I can't breathe”, in reference to the deaths of unarmed black men Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of white police officers.
In November a grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson, who shot and killed 18-year-old Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, last August.
And earlier this month a separate grand jury announced that it would not indict New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo, who placed 43-year-old Garner, who later died, in a chokehold.
Bartee had a history of arrests on at least 45 charges since 1999, according to a list provided by the sheriff, but the deputy was not aware of his background at the time of the shooting, Demings said.
McCarthy has been reassigned to administrative duties for at least a week, and the shooting is being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as part of a standard procedure.
Additional reporting by agenciesReuse content