Friday, September 23, 2016

Charlotte Is Pressured to Release Police Video of Man’s Killing
SEPT. 23, 2016

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — This city’s leaders, faced with mounting demands for transparency after a fatal police shooting of a black man led to rioting, resisted calls on Friday for the immediate release of video of the killing and argued that a rushed disclosure could compromise a criminal inquiry.

The status of the police video of the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, 43, and the shooting’s circumstances have been debated here for days, and the discussion deepened on Friday, especially after lawyers for Mr. Scott’s wife, Rakeyia, released a cellphone video that she took of the episode on Tuesday afternoon.

During a news conference shortly before Ms. Scott’s video became public, city officials alternated between declaring their commitment to openness and insisting that no official footage should be released before the conclusion of the inquiry by the State Bureau of Investigation.

The Charlotte police chief, Kerr Putney, warned that hastily distributed footage might endanger the city’s wary and fragile peace.

“If I were to put it out indiscriminately, and it doesn’t give you good context, it can inflame the situation and make it even worse,” he said. “It will exacerbate the backlash. It will increase the distrust, so that is where discernment, judgment and reasonableness have to come in.”

The chief, who is black, added: “It’s not that I want to hide anything. It’s I want to be more thoughtful and deliberate in delivering the whole story.”

Mayor Jennifer Roberts said the video “should be released,” and in a statement after Ms. Scott’s footage began circulating online, she urged the state investigative team “to use every resource at its disposal to get this done and release the information to the public as quickly as possible.”

The demands of protesters, who have sometimes chanted for the release of the footage, gained traction Friday, even after the city made its public defense. When demonstrators took to Charlotte’s streets on Friday for the fourth consecutive night of protests, they reiterated their plea. Protesters also marched in Atlanta.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president, said on Twitter that the city should release its footage without delay. Mrs. Clinton initially planned to visit Charlotte on Sunday, but she postponed her trip after Ms. Roberts publicly asked her and Donald J. Trump, the Republican nominee, to avoid visiting the city for now.

A spokeswoman for Mrs. Clinton, Jennifer Palmieri, said the trip would be rescheduled for Oct. 2, “provided circumstances allow.”

Earlier, Cornell William Brooks, the president of the national N.A.A.C.P., said the release of the video could not wait. “It’s important the public have as much information as possible,” he said.

The state attorney general, Roy Cooper, also urged Charlotte officials to make their footage public.

“We must continue in the pursuit of truth while also continuing the important work of bringing our communities and law enforcement together to build trust and safety for all,” said Mr. Cooper, who is the Democratic nominee for governor. “One step toward meeting both goals is for the videos in this case to be released to the public.”

The debate comes as North Carolina prepares to curb access to police videos. A state law, scheduled to take effect Oct. 1, prohibits police recordings from being considered public records, and a court order will be required for their release. Judges will be allowed to consider whether “release is necessary to advance a compelling public interest,” as well as whether publication “would create a serious threat to the fair, impartial and orderly administration of justice.”

Gov. Pat McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor who signed the new measure into law this summer, expressed reservations about releasing the footage.

“Now more than ever, we have to make sure that we protect the constitutional rights of any individual being involved in that investigation,” Mr. McCrory said. “That is our responsibility.”

The State Bureau of Investigation said late Friday that the Charlotte police had the power to release the footage and that “discussions are actively underway between local officials regarding the release of that video.”

In other developments, the police said that a man had been arrested in connection with the Wednesday night shooting death of a protester, Justin Carr, in central Charlotte. Jail records showed that Rayquan Borum, 21, of Charlotte, was charged with first-degree murder.

Mr. McCrory said he hoped that the arrest would quell speculation among some protesters that a police officer had opened fire and killed Mr. Carr during Wednesday’s march.

Officials were also bracing for the possibility of unrest over the weekend, and Ms. Roberts did not lift the city’s midnight-to-6-a.m. curfew, which she ordered late Thursday. The police did not enforce the curfew early Friday, and Chief Putney indicated that officers might not ever do so.

“It is a tool in the toolbelt to help us maintain order,” said Chief Putney, who added that he had requested the curfew, in part, because of intelligence that suggested a “violent group” was traveling to Charlotte from South Carolina. “It gives us discretion.”

Mr. McCrory said he anticipated that the National Guard would remain in Charlotte until at least Sunday, and President Obama, in an interview aired Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” urged calm.

“I think it’s important to separate out the pervasive sense of frustration among a lot of African-Americans about shootings of people, and the sense that justice is not always colorblind,” Mr. Obama said, adding that illegal behavior during protests was “not going to advance the cause.”

“In Charlotte,” he continued, “my hope is that in the days to come, that people in the community pull together and say, ‘How do we do this the right way?’”

Amy Chozick and Christopher Mele contributed reporting from New York.

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