Keith Lamont Scott shooting: Charlotte police insist killed black man was carrying a gun and represented a threat

Police and protesters are disputing the facts in the shooting incident

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Wednesday 21 September 2016 19:06 BST
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said the victim had been armed
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said the victim had been armed (AP)

Police have rejected a claim by family members of a black man shot and killed in North Carolina that he was unarmed and sitting reading a book.

Peaceful protests turned violent late on Tuesday night, after the shooting of 43-year-old Keith Scott that afternoon by officers in the city of Charlotte. At least one police vehicle was set on fire and officers used tear gas to disperse the crowds.

Protesters had said that Mr Scott, who had seven children, was not armed, but was carrying a book. They also said he was disabled.

Relatives of Keith Lamont Scott said was sitting in a car with a book (Facebook)

“He didn’t have a gun,” a woman identifying herself as his sister told local television. “He wasn’t messing with nobody.”

But amid calls for call and dialogue coming from the city’s mayor, police on Wednesday insisted that Mr Scott was carrying a handgun and had represented a threat to the officer who approached him.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said officers were searching for a suspect Tuesday when they saw Mr Scott exit a vehicle with a handgun.

Officers told Ms Scott, who was not the suspect they were looking for, to drop the gun. He got out of the vehicle a second time still carrying it, the chief said, and he was shot because he posed a threat.

Protests erupt after officers kill black man in North Carolina

“It’s time to change the narrative, because I can tell you from the facts that the story’s a little bit different as to how it’s been portrayed so far, especially through social media,” he said. He said a weapon had been recovered from the scene, but they had found no book.

The Associated Press said his comments were an apparent reference to a profanity-laced, hourlong video that a woman claiming to be Mr Scott's daughter posted to Facebook soon after the shooting, saying that her father had an unspecified disability and was unarmed.

In it, she appeared to be at the shooting scene, which is surrounded by yellow police tape, as she yelled at officers.

“Oh my gosh y’all, look… the police just shot my daddy four times for being black,” she says at the beginning of the hour-long live video stream. “They tased him first and then shot him.”

(AP (AP)

As the various narratives collided, protesters took to the streets of Chartlotte and a number of police vehicles were destroyed in the area near to where the fatal shooting took place.

A large group of demonstrators gathered near the apartment complex where the incident happened. By the early hours of Wednesday morning, demonstrators occupied a segment of Interstate Highway 83.

At least 16 officers were injured, including one who was hit in the face with a rock.

The shooting occurred at 4 pm on Tuesday, a day after police in Tulsa, Oklahoma, released video showing the Friday shooting death of Terence Crutcher by one of their officers, adding to ongoing scrutiny of local police departments across the US for the almost routine killing of unarmed black people.

The black officer who shot Scott, Brently Vinson, has been placed on administrative leave as is standard procedure in such cases. Mr Vinson has been with the department for two years.

BJ Murphy, an outspoken leader of the Nation of Islam, called for an economic boycott of the city. He said if “black lives don’t matter, black money shouldn't matter”.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts appealed for calm.

“We are calling for peace, we are calling for calm, we are calling for dialogue,” she said. “We understand that with these events everyone has different viewpoints and perspectives.”

She added: “That makes it even more important for us to treat each other with dignity and respect and to wait until we have all the information.”

She said she had been in touch with the White House along with state and local leaders. The city was preparing to handle more potential demonstrations by bolstering its police presence.

“We all see this as a tragedy,” the mayor said. “We all want to work toward a peaceful community. We know that we have work to do.”

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