Thursday 29 September 2016

Protests erupt after officers kill black man witnesses say was unarmed and disabled

Police say that they recovered a firearm at the scene, but numerous witnesses at the scene say he was holding a book

Published 21/09/2016 | 08:11

Protests erupted in North Carolina after police shot and killed a black man who was unarmed and had a disability, witnesses said.

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A large group of demonstrators gathered near the apartment complex where Charlotte Police fatally shot 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott. Early reports showed police in full riot gear deploying tear gas canisters at the protesters, while some demonstrators reportedly threw rocks and water bottles at officers. By Wednesday morning, demonstrators occupied a segment of Interstate Highway 83.

The shooting occurred at 4 pm on Tuesday, a day after police in Tulsa, Oklahoma, released video showing the Friday shooting death of Terence Crutcher by one of their officers, adding to ongoing scrutiny of local police departments across the US for the almost routine killing of unarmed black people.

Charlotte Police officers were searching the apartment complex for a suspect with an outstanding warrant when they gunned down Scott. The victim was not the person they were originally trying to find.

Scott reportedly exited his vehicle at his apartment complex, but got back inside when he saw officers. The police report said Scott then re-emerged from his vehicle “armed with a firearm and posed an imminent deadly threat to the officers”.

“I don’t believe [the man shot] was the one with the warrants, but we don’t know if there was a connection,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said. “At this point, all we know they’re in the apartment complex parking lot and this subject gets out with a weapon, they engage him and one of the officers felt a lethal threat and fired his weapon because of that.”

Police identified two-year veteran Brentley Vinson as the officer who fired the shots. A law enforcement source told WBTV that Mr Vinson is African American.

CMPD said they recovered a firearm in their report, but witness accounts conflict with authorities’ official story.

A woman who identified herself as Scott’s daughter streamed the aftermath on Facebook Live. Her profile was deactivated at the time of this writing.

WBTV reported that, in the video, the woman said Scott was sitting in his car reading a book before the officers deployed a Taser and shot him four times. She said he was unarmed and disclosed that he had a disability.

“The police just shot my daddy four times for being black,” she reportedly said.

Another woman, identified as Scott’s sister, said undercover detectives “jumped out of their truck”, shouted he had a gun, and opened fire.

“He sits in the shade, reads his book, does his studies, and waits for his kids to get off the bus,” she said. “He didn’t have no gun. He wasn’t messing with nobody.”

Large crowds gathered in the neighbourhood by 9 pm, with residents holding signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and “It Was a Book”.

CMPD reported via Twitter that at least 12 officers had been injured by demonstrators.

Police have deployed tear gas to disperse the crowd, and one police cruiser was reportedly towed away after sustaining damage during the demonstration.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts called for calm while promising to launch a full-scale investigation into the shooting.

"The community deserves answers and full investigation will ensue," she tweeted. "Will be reaching out to community leaders to work together."

Keith Lamont Scott is the sixth civilian killed by CMPD. The District Attorney’s office determined that officers were justified in the previous five cases. But Scott's death is a symptom of a larger problem in Charlotte, where the black population is disproportionately impacted by the practises of local law enforcement.

According to CMPD data compiled by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, while black people are only 35 per cent of the Charlotte population, they make up 50 per cent of stops by police, 68 per cent of searches, and 74 per cent of cases involving use of force.

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