Friday, September 23, 2016

Protests Continue As Charlotte's Curfew Imposed
Tonya Maxwell and Doug Stanglin
6:09 a.m. EDT September 23, 2016

Charlotte victim's family on video: 'Let the public see'

Keith Scott's family has now seen police videos of his shooting death by a Charlotte officer. Their attorney says that in the video, Scott's "hands were by his side and he was slowly walking backwards" when he was shot and killed.

CHARLOTTE — After a second night of violent protests over a police-involved shooting, police chief Kerr Putney allowed the victim's family to view video of the incident but said he would not release footage to the public.

The city announced it would impose a city-wide curfew from midnight to 6 a.m. "The curfew will be in effect each day until the end of the State of Emergency is declared or until the official proclamation is revoked," the city's Twitter feed reported.

Putney told reporters the video "does not give me absolute definitive visual evidence that would confirm that a person is pointing a gun" but that the evidence "taken in totality" supports the police version of events that led to the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. The family viewed the video Thursday afternoon but had not yet made a statement about their reaction to it.

Police, who were serving a warrant at a nearby apartment complex at the time, said Scott was armed and refused direct orders from officers to drop the weapon.

Several local residents said the 43-year-old father of seven regularly waited in his car and read until his son arrived back from school. They claimed he was carrying a book, not a gun, when he stepped from the car after police approached.

“He got out of his car, he walked back to comply, and all his compliance did was get him murdered,” said Taheshia Williams, whose balcony overlooks the shady parking spot where Scott was Tuesday afternoon, the Associated Press reported.

Anger over the incident erupted into violence Tuesday night and continued Wednesday night, prompting Gov. Pat McCrory to declare a state of emergency. The declaration enabled assistance from the National Guard and the state Highway Patrol.

Putney said two officers and nine civilians were injured and 44 people arrested late Wednesday in several hours of violence that broke out following peaceful protests. One person was shot, apparently by another civilian. The victim, identified as Justin Carr, 26, died of his injuries, Charlotte police confirmed Thursday.

With police in riot gear patrolling downtown streets, protesters shouted "hands up, don't shoot," banged against a police van and broke a window of the City Smoke barbecue restaurant and bar. Police set off smoke bombs, which are sometimes used to disperse crowds.

"The events we saw last night are not the Charlotte I know and love, or the deep-seated tradition we have of collaboration," Mayor Jennifer Roberts said at the news conference.

Authorities said they would not impose a curfew, but reserved the right to do so. Putney said the arrival of hundreds National Guard troops and highway patrol officers to protect buildings would allow police to go after violent protesters.

Putney has promised a transparent investigation of the original shooting incident, and agreed to let Scott's family see the video, but stood by his refusal to release the footage to the public.

The police chief said a public release of the video would have a “negative impact on the integrity of the case.”

"Right now, my priority ... is the people who are the victims of the shooting," Putney said. "I am going to honor that request. If you think we should display a victim's worst day for public consumption, that is not the transparency I'm speaking of."

Earlier, Scott's wife, Rakeiya, issued a statement saying the family had "more questions than answers" about his death.

"Rest assured, we will work diligently to get answers to our questions as quickly as possible," the statement said.

The family also called on protesters to be peaceful. "Please do not hurt people or members of law enforcement, damage property or take things that do not belong to you in the name of protesting," the statement read.

Police said the plainclothes officer, identified as Brently Vinson, who shot Scott has been placed on leave, which is standard procedure in such cases. The incident is being investigated by a separate state agency.

Three uniformed officers at the shooting scene had body cameras, but Vinson did not, police said.

A new law, signed by McCrory in July, takes effect Oct. 1 and denies public access to police body cam and dashcam footage without a judge’s orders.

Under the law, police departments can decide whether to make such video public. A person depicted in a video can request release of the footage, but if the request is denied, the person must challenge the decision in court.

It is unclear whether the new law would apply to the ongoing case if the investigation continues into October.

In Washington, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, a North Carolina native, said the Justice Department was dispatching four Community Relations Service members to Charlotte to assist with bringing peace to the city.

Lynch called on protesters to “stop’’ the violence that has marred demonstrations in the past two days. “Violence only begets violence,’’ she said.

“I know that the events of recent days are painfully unclear and call out for answers,’’ Lynch said. “But I also know that the answer will not be found in the violence of recent days … I know that most of the demonstrators gathered to exercise their constitutional right to peaceful protest in order to raise issues and create change. We need your voice. We need your passion. We need your commitment. But I urge those responsible for the violence to stop.’’

Robin Tanner, chair of the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice, was among 40 local faith leaders who were on the street during Wednesday's protests and were caught in a crossfire of tear gas as police in riot gear tried to rein in violent demonstrations.

Tanner, choking with emotion at a news conference called Thursday by the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, said the city had become "militarized."

She said Charlotte was where she began work as a Unitarian minister, where she was married and had children. "Now this is the city that tear gassed me."

She called on city leaders not to impose a curfew, which she said would only increase tension.

"We are begging as faith leaders serving this city for action that would de-escalate," Tanner said.

Violence continued in Charlotte after the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency and enlisted the help of the National Guard to help keep the peace.

Maxwell reports for the Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times. Stanglin reported from McLean, Va. Contributing: Melanie Eversley in New York

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