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Saturday 17 March 2018

Video shows deadly encounter between police and black man in Charlotte

Protesters gather in Charlotte on a night of mostly peaceful protests over the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott (Charlotte Observer/AP)
Protesters gather in Charlotte on a night of mostly peaceful protests over the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott (Charlotte Observer/AP)
Demonstrators make their point on the streets of Charlotte (AP)

Video footage of a deadly encounter between Charlotte police and a black man shows his wife repeatedly telling officers he is not armed and pleading with them not to shoot her husband as they shout commands to drop a gun.

The video, recorded by Keith Lamont Scott's wife and posted online by The New York Times on Friday, does not establish whether he had a gun.

The two-and-a-half-minute video does not show the shooting, although gunshots can be heard.

Mr Scott's wife tells officers that he has a traumatic brain injury. At one point, she tells her husband to get out of the car so police do not break the windows.

As the encounter escalates, she tells them repeatedly: "You better not shoot him."

After the gunshots, Mr Scott can be seen lying on the ground while his wife says "he better live".

She continues recording and asks if an ambulance has been called as officers stand over Mr Scott.

It is not clear whether they are checking Mr Scott, who appears to be lying on his chest, for weapons or attempting to give first aid.

The video emerged after a third night of protests over the shooting gave way to quiet streets as a curfew enacted by the city's mayor ended early on Friday.

The largely peaceful Thursday night demonstrations in the city's business district were watched over by rifle-toting members of the National Guard.

Protesters called on police to release video that could resolve wildly different accounts of the shooting earlier this week.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said on Friday that there is footage from at least one police body camera and one dashboard camera.

The family of Mr Scott, 43, was shown the footage on Thursday and demanded that police release it to the public. The video recorded by Mr Scott's wife had not been previously released.

Demonstrators chanted "release the tape" and "we want the tape" on Thursday while briefly blocking an intersection near the Bank of America headquarters and later climbing the steps to the door of the city government centre.

Later, several dozen demonstrators walked onto an interstate highway through the city, but they were pushed back by police in riot gear.

Charlotte is the latest US city to be shaken by protests and recriminations over the death of a black man at the hands of police, a list that includes Baltimore, Milwaukee, Chicago, New York and Ferguson, Missouri.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Thursday, prosecutors charged a white officer with manslaughter for killing an unarmed black man on a city street last week.

Thursday's protests in Charlotte lacked the violence and property damage of previous nights, and the curfew encouraged a stopping point.

Local officers' ranks were augmented by Guard members carrying rifles and guarding office buildings against the threat of property damage.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts signed documents on Thursday night to be in effect from midnight until 6am each day that the state of emergency declared by the governor continues.

After the curfew took effect, police allowed the crowd of demonstrators to thin without forcing them off the street.

Police Captain Mike Campagna told reporters that officers would not seek to arrest curfew violators as long as they were peaceful.

So far, police have resisted releasing the footage of Mr Scott's death.

Mr Putney said on Friday that releasing it could inflame the situation. He has said previously that the video will be made public when he believes there is a "compelling reason" to do so.

"It's a personal struggle, but I have to do what I think is best for my community," Putney said.

During the same news conference, Ms Roberts said she believes the video should be released, but "the question is on the timing".

Earlier in the week, the Charlotte protests turned violent. On Wednesday, demonstrators attacked reporters and others, set fires and smashed windows of hotels, office buildings and restaurants.

Forty-four people were arrested after Wednesday's protests, and one protester who was shot died at the hospital on Thursday.

City officials said police did not shoot 26-year-old Justin Carr. A suspect was arrested, but police provided few details.

Police have said Mr Scott was shot to death on Tuesday by a black officer after he disregarded repeated warnings to drop his gun.

Neighbours have said he was holding only a book. The police chief said a gun was found next to the dead man, and there was no book.

Mr Putney said he has seen the video and it does not contain "absolute, definitive evidence that would confirm that a person was pointing a gun".

But he added: "When taken in the totality of all the other evidence, it supports what we said."

Justin Bamberg, a lawyer for Mr Scott's family, watched the video with the killed man's relatives. He said that in the video, Mr Scott gets out of his vehicle calmly.

"While police did give him several commands, he did not aggressively approach them or raise his hands at members of law enforcement at any time.

"It is impossible to discern from the videos what, if anything, Mr Scott is holding in his hands," Mr Bamberg said in a statement.

Mr Scott was shot as he walked slowly backwards with his hands by his side, Mr Bamberg said.


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