CHARLOTTE, N.C. » Police officers gave a black man multiple clear warnings to drop a handgun before one of the officers opened fire and killed him, Charlotte’s police chief said today, hours after protesters and police clashed in unrest that saw semi-trucks looted and set on fire.
At least 16 officers were injured, including one who was hit in the face with a rock. Authorities had to use tear gas to disperse the protests, which happened after another demonstration in Tulsa, Oklahoma, over the shooting there of an unarmed black man by police.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said during a news conference that officers were searching for a suspect Tuesday when they saw 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott exit a vehicle with a handgun. Officers told 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.
“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.
His comments were an apparent reference to a profanity-laced, hourlong video that a woman claiming to be Scott’s daughter posted to Facebook soon after the shooting, saying that her father had an unspecified disability and was unarmed. In it, she appears to be at the shooting scene, which is surrounded by yellow police tape, as she yells at officers.
The woman did not respond to Facebook messages, and her claims could not immediately be verified by The Associated Press. It also was not clear if she witnessed the shooting.
The family plans a news conference today in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred.
The black officer who shot Scott, Brently Vinson, has been placed on administrative leave as is standard procedure in such cases. Vinson has been with the department for two years.
B.J. 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.”
Police said the protests broke out around 7 p.m. Tuesday, about three hours after the shooting at an apartment complex on the city’s northeast side.
TV footage showed dozens of protesters on Interstate 85 apparently looting semi-trucks and setting their contents on fire on the highway, shutting the highway down.
The police chief said 16 officers suffered mostly minor injuries and police cars were damaged after people began throwing rocks.
By 5 a.m. today, the streets were quiet and I-85 was moving again. Broken glass and rocks littered the ground where a police car had been vandalized. Less than 5 miles away, wooden pallets barricaded the entrance of a Wal-Mart that had apparently been looted.
Detectives recovered a gun at the scene and were interviewing witnesses.
“The officers gave loud, clear verbal commands, which were also heard by many of the witnesses,” the police chief said.
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts appealed for calm.
In Tulsa, hundreds of people rallied outside police headquarters calling for the firing of police officer Betty Shelby, who shot 40-year-old Terence Crutcher on Friday during a confrontation in the middle of a road that was captured on police dashcam and helicopter video.
Shelby’s attorney has said Crutcher was not following the officers’ commands and that Shelby was concerned because he kept reaching for his pocket as if he were carrying a weapon. An attorney representing Crutcher’s family says Crutcher committed no crime and gave officers no reason to shoot him.
Local and federal investigations into that shooting are ongoing.
Associated Press writers Tom Foreman Jr. and Steve Reed contributed to this report.