Friday 30 September 2016

Police hurt in protests over fatal shooting of black man

Greg Lacour

Published 22/09/2016 | 02:30

Officials have called for calm and dialogue after the fatal shooting of a black man by police led to a night of violent street protests that injured 16 officers.

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The Charlotte violence unfolded as demonstrators in Tulsa, Oklahoma, called for the arrest of a police officer there who was seen in widely viewed videos shooting to death an unarmed black man who had his hands in clear view at the time.

Police fire tear gas into the crowd of protesters in Charlotte, North Carolina (Charlotte Observer/AP)
Police fire tear gas into the crowd of protesters in Charlotte, North Carolina (Charlotte Observer/AP)

The incidents were the latest to raise questions of racial bias in US law enforcement.

Criminal investigations have been opened in both cities for the shootings and the Justice Department has started a separate probe into the Oklahoma incident to see if officers' use of force amounted to a civil rights violation.

"Our top priority is for Charlotte to remain a safe community for everyone who lives and visits here," Mayor Jennifer Roberts said.

A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer killed Keith Scott (43), who had been seen entering a vehicle with a handgun, police chief Kerr Putney said.

Scott was surrounded by police and shot after he exited the car and did not obey officers' instructions to drop his weapon, Putney said.

"He stepped out, posing a threat to the officers, and Officer Brentley Vinson subsequently fired his weapon, striking the subject," Putney said, adding that police had acted heroically in trying to stem the protests that followed the shooting.

Scott's family have said he was reading in his car and was unarmed. Police said they recovered a gun that they said Scott was holding.

"I can also tell you we did not find a book," Putney said, adding: "We did find a weapon."

North Carolina allows the open carrying of handguns, including having a pistol in a vehicle.

One protester was arrested and several were injured in demonstrations that blocked an interstate highway.

Protesters set fires and stoned police cars, said Putney. Police deployed gas to disperse the crowd.

The North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has urged Charlotte police to release any footage from body or dashboard cameras of the shooting.

Charlotte's police chief has said the officer who shot Keith Lamont Scott was not wearing a body camera, but Putney also said he could not release body camera and dashboard camera video from other officers because of the ongoing investigation.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the police shooting deaths in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina, were highlighting the most vivid and painful divisions that persist between law enforcement and black communities.

Lynch made her comments at the beginning of her address to the International Bar Association Conference in Washington.

She said the Justice Department had opened a civil rights investigation into the death of Terrence Crutcher in Tulsa and the agency was in contact with Charlotte authorities as the investigation begins there.

Charlotte's police chief said Scott refused multiple warnings to drop a handgun before a black officer fatally shot the black man.

A woman claiming to be Scott's daughter posted a video to Facebook soon after the shooting, saying that her father had an unspecified disability and was unarmed when he was shot.

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