Wednesday 28 September 2016

Man fighting for life after being hurt in protests over fatal shooting

Published 22/09/2016 | 06:17

A protester is fighting for his life after being critically wounded at a dusk prayer vigil as authorities in North Carolina's largest city tried to quell public anger following the fatal shooting of a black man by a police officer.

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Meanwhile state governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency in Charlotte as protests over the police shooting turned violent for a second night.

Mr McCrory said he was also sending the National Guard to Charlotte as scattered groups of protesters continued to attack reporters and others, break windows and start fires.

Wednesday's protests started as a prayer vigil, but a group split off and marched through the city centre. The march turned violent after a protester was shot and critically injured. City officials say police did not fire the shot.

After the shooting, police in riot gear began firing tear gas and marching through the city centre arm-in-arm.

Keith Scott, 43, was shot dead by a black policeman on Tuesday. Police say he had a gun, but neighbours and his family say he had only a book as he waited for his son to leave the school bus.

The killing inflamed racial tensions in a city that seemed to have steered clear of the troubles that engulfed other places.

Destructive protests on Tuesday that included shutting down eight-lane Interstate 85 and burning the contents of a tractor-trailer turned violent on Wednesday. Along with the man shot, paramedics said two other people and six police officers suffered minor injuries.

Wednesday's protest started as a prayer vigil, but a group left and marched through central Charlotte shouting "Black lives matter" and "Hands up - don't shoot" while swearing at officers with bicycles blocking junctions.

As the protesters approached the Omni hotel, officers in riot gear lined up and a few marchers threw bottles and dirt.

Immediately after the shooting, police began firing flash grenades and protesters threw fireworks. Police then fired tear gas and the crowd of hundreds dispersed.

But not all the marchers left. Police in riot gear then began marching arm-in-arm through central Charlotte junctions, firing tear gas at people who charged them. At least one protester knocked down a TV reporter during a live broadcast.

There were hints earlier that Charlotte would suffer a second night of destruction. As its white mayor and black police chief stood at City Hall and appealed for calm, African-American leaders who said they were speaking for Mr Scott's family held their own news conference near where he was killed, reminding the crowd of other shootings and abuses of black men.

John Barnett, who runs a civil rights group called True Healing Under God, (THUG), warned that releasing video footage of the shooting might be the only way for police to regain the community's trust.

"Just telling us this is still under investigation is not good enough for the windows of the Wal-Mart," he said.

Tuesday's violence broke out shortly after a woman who appeared to be Mr Scott's daughter posted a profanity-laced, hour-long video on Facebook, saying her father had an unspecified disability and was unarmed. In the footage she is at the cordoned-off shooting scene, yelling at officers.

"My daddy is dead!" the woman screams on the video.

On Wednesday morning Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief Kerr Putney said: "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 officers were serving arrest warrants on another person when they saw Mr Scott get out of a vehicle with a handgun. A black plainclothes officer in a vest badged "Police" shot Mr Scott after the officer and other uniformed members of the force made "loud, clear" demands that he drop the gun, the chief said.

Mr Putney was adamant that Mr Scott posed a threat, even if he did not point his weapon at officers, and said a gun was found next to him. "I can tell you we did not find a book," he said.

Neighbours, though, claimed the officer who fired was white and that Mr Scott had his hands in the air.

The three uniformed officers had body cameras; the plainclothes officer did not, police said. But the chief said he could not release the video because the investigation was still under way. No mobile phone video has emerged on social media, as has happened in other cases around the country.

The plainclothes officer, identified as Brently Vinson, a two-year member of the department, has been placed on leave, standard procedure in such cases.

Mr Scott had a lengthy criminal record, including convictions in Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina. Texas records showed he was convicted of evading arrest with a vehicle in 2005, and several months later, of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

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