A fatal police shooting of a black man leaves Charlotte, N.C. in turmoil

Police say 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott was armed - witnesses at the scene say he was just holding a book
September 21, 2016, 3:40pm
A protester raises his arms in front of officers in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016. (Jeff Siner/The Charlotte Observer via AP)

The black man who was fatally shot by an officer at an apartment complex on Tuesday afternoon was armed and ignored multiple warnings to drop his gun, Charlotte's police chief said Wednesday, contrary to what witnesses at the scene say they observed.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said at a news conference that he couldn't say definitively whether Keith Lamont Scott, 43, had pointed the weapon at officers in a threatening manner. Putney also said that Officer Brentley Vinson, who shot Scott, was not wearing a body camera, but that investigators are in the process of interviewing witnesses, and reviewing footage from other officers' body cameras and the vehicles' dash cams to get a better sense of what exactly happened.

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Police say they recovered a gun from the scene. The incident unfolded "within a matter of seconds" Putney said.

Officers said they were searching for a suspect with an outstanding warrant when they saw Scott exiting his vehicle holding a gun. Vinson, who is also black, believed Scott posed a threat and shot him.

But a man who says he witnessed the shooting disputes that account. "Man was in his truck, reading a book waiting for his kid to come home," he told a local NBC station. "Cops shot him, for nothing." Initial reports on social media also described Scott as "disabled", but his condition has not been confirmed by his family.

Scott's daughter Lyric live streamed the aftermath of her father's shooting on Facebook. "They just shot my daddy," Lyric keeps saying, between sobs. "He's dead."

Unreal. In our city. On our block. — Stephen James (@Sjamesundead)September 21, 2016

Protests erupted across the North Carolina city on Tuesday night after news of Scott's death broke. Local authorities used tear gas to break up crowds of demonstrators, and wrote on Twitter that protesters had lobbed rocks at officers, hitting one in the face, and vandalizing police vehicles.

#Charlotte pic.twitter.com/B2fbm8kWRe
— Carolina Bama (@Awkward_Duck) September 21, 2016

16 officers were reportedly injured, but none seriously. Scenes of standoffs and scuffles between protesters chanting "hands up, don't shoot", and cops, many clad in riot gear, emerged on social media.

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Proud to be a part of the protest and hopefully a bigger movement tonight. pic.twitter.com/Liq91DLpfU
— Kam (@kamar_iii) September 21, 2016

The protests continued into the early hours of Wednesday. Several hundred protesters poured onto Interstate 85, and some clambered onto trucks, looted their contents and set them on fire.

Better footage of the looting and arson by protesters for #KeithLamontScott in #Charlotte on I-85. pic.twitter.com/LAN8gZmIrl
— The Current Year (@TheeCurrentYear) September 21, 2016

"As is standard procedure with any officer involved shooting, Officer Vinson has been placed on paid administrative leave," Charlotte-Mecklenburg police wrote on Twitter.

"We all see this as a tragedy, we all want to work towards a peaceful community," said Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts on Wednesday. "Our concern is that some of the agitation may come from folks who aren't living in Charlotte."

Police Chief Putney said that the department is bracing itself for further unrest. "We're hoping for the best and preparing for the worst," he said.

Scott was the 26th person to be shot by police in North Carolina in 2016 so far, according to The Guardian's "The Counted", which tracks police killings in the United States.

Tuesday's protests in Charlotte followed earlier demonstrations in Tulsa, Oklahoma, sparked by the release of video footage showing police fatally shooting an unarmed black man whose vehicle had stalled. Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Tulsa police headquarters demanding the resignation of Officer Betty Shelby for the death of Terence Crutcher, 40.