McCrory declares State of Emergency after Charlotte protests
Gov. Pat McCrory has declared a State of Emergency late Wednesday night after two nights of protests of the fatal shooting of a man by a police officer Tuesday afternoon.
A vigil in Marshall Park for Keith Lamont Scott quickly turned to a violent protest Wednesday night less than 24 hours after violent protests overnight that blocked Interstate 85 and other roads, damaged property and injured more than a dozen police officers.
At the request of Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney, McCrory declared a State of Emergency and said that he initiated efforts to deploy the National Guard to assist local law enforcement on the scene in Charlotte.
A large group of protesters moved from Marshall Park and marched through the streets just after 7 p.m. Police in riot gear arrived on the scene just after 8 p.m.
Video from the scene showed police using tear gas to break up the crowd.
Charlotte officials said a shooting occurred in front of the Omni Hotel during the protests. Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said that the man shot in the protest was killed but officials later retracted that statement, saying the man was on life support and in critical condition.
Officials said that no law enforcement officers were involved in the shooting.
Kenny Smith with the Charlotte City Council confirmed that seven Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officers were taken to the hospital for injuries sustained during protests.
Just before midnight, protesters moved to Interstate 277 and began blocking traffic.
McCrory said Wednesday night that the State Bureau of Investigation has been assisting Charlotte police officers since Tuesday and State Highway Patrol officers were sent in to assist Wednesday night at the request of the police chief.
“Any violence directed toward our citizens or police officers or destruction of property should not be tolerated. I support and commend the law enforcement officials for their bravery and courage during this difficult situation,” McCrory said.
Attorney General Roy Cooper said in a statement Wednesday night that he has offered the full assistance of the North Carolina Department of Justice to Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts.
’Violence will not bring justice. I urge everyone in Charlotte tonight to heed the call for peaceful demonstration. We must come together as a community to get answers and find a better path foward,” Cooper said. “Already tonight we have seen civilians, police and emergency responders injured. This must stop.”
The Charlotte Area Transit System suspended streetcar service and altered certain Lightrail routes due to the protests.
Several police cars as well as personal vehicles on the scene were vandalized and Charlotte officials said that looting occurred at the center of the protest.
Protesters on the scene began blocking the road just before 10 p.m., using metal barricades. Protesters were seen throwing everything from water bottles to potted plants at officers.
The protest in Marshall Park began peacefully and some attendees even brought their children to share in the event.
“For them to be so small, I just wanted them to be exposed to it at an early age so they can know maybe they can make a difference when they get older. When they see what’s going on now, maybe they can make a change,” said Phillip Mackey.
Those who attended what was originally intended to be a vigil said they were disappointed by the violent turn the evening took.
“I love my city buy I’m sad with the events that have taken place. I’m sad for the Scott family, even for the officer. I just pray for a solution and it starts with God,” said Dolores Springs. “I thought that this was going to be about the family and prayer but it’s been just a little bit off tonight so I’m hoping that everybody will get back on course and remember why we’re here.”
Tensions have been so high in Charlotte in the wake of the fatal shooting that people waved police away from a collision Wednesday near the site of the shooting.
“We’re angry, yes, but we tell them as a pastor, to be angry, but the Bible says sin not, so don’t provoke violence,” said Rev. Kerby McLean, pastor of Perpetual Hope Kingdom International.
“We have a challenge here in Charlotte,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said. “People are watching how we respond, how we react, and I’m optimistic that the results of our actions will be positive.”
Putney said officers were at a northeast Charlotte apartment complex to serve warrants on another person when Scott, 43, got out of his car holding a gun. Scott was shot after he disregarded officers’ orders to drop the gun, the chief said.
Officer Brentley Vinson, who shot Scott, has been placed on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated. Vinson has been with CMPD since 2014.
People in the community question the police’s version of what happened.
“We need to get the true facts,” community activist Valerie Moore said. “We need to get the truth because, until we get the truth, it’s going to be a bad situation.”
Taheshia Williams said she saw officers shoot Scott four times from her second-story balcony.
“We saw what happened. We saw they killed that man in cold blood sitting right here waiting for his son to get off the bus,” Williams said. “To see that this is happening in real life, in front of your face, it’s baffling, it’s numbing.”
She said Scott had a book, not a gun, when police confronted him.
“When he got out of the car to ask the police what was wrong, a book fell off his lap, not a gun,” she said.
Putney disputed that narrative, saying investigators found a gun near Scott after the shooting.
“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. “I can tell you a weapon was seized – a handgun. I can also tell you we did not find a book that has been made reference to.”
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts promised a full investigation of the shooting and appealed for calm in the meantime.
“We are a community that knows, that knows that we rise or fall together,” Roberts said. “I’m asking all of our Charlotte community to stand together to help us. Give us the time to get the right information and then to continue dialogue going forward on how we can be a peaceful community where opportunity is open to everyone.”
Vinson, who was in plain clothes at the time of the shooting, wasn’t wearing a body camera, but other officers on the scene were, Putney said.
The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union called for the release of all police video of the shooting, but under a state law that goes into effect next week, police will retain custody of all body camera and dashboard camera footage unless a judge orders its release publicly.
“It’s not until you begin to speak up and voice your opinion and tell these people that are taking our kids’ lives that black lives matter that change is going to come,” said Rev. Amere May, pastor of Abundant Faith Word Church. “There is no need in us rioting, there is no need in us burning our own community down.”
“I do encourage the youth to be in control, but I can’t control them,” civil rights activist John Barnett said. “Dr. (Martin Luther) King said a community that doesn’t feel like they have a stake in their community will unconsciously try to destroy it.”
“Truth brings peace to the matter, so until truth is placed on the table, then the anger of the community and the pain of the community will not cease,” McLean said. “This is an issue that keeps going on and on and on.”
“It’s just a sad situation,” said Rev. Raymond Johnson of Marion, S.C. “We’re going to keep protesting, and we’re going to keep fighting and standing up for justice. The killing has got to stop.”
“We support those who exercise the right to peacefully protest, and encourage the First Amendment right to call for redress of wrongs,” Rev. William Barber, state president of the NAACP, said in a statement. “We stand against efforts that undermine the legitimate calls for justice with unjust, random or purposeless acts of violence.”
African-American students at Triangle colleges said Wednesday night that there is a war on black people.
A group gathered late Wednesday night at Historically Black College campuses for a protest sparked by the shooting of Scott.
At one gathering at North Carolina Central University, students were demanding that administrators and police at their school speak out and denounce officer-involved shootings as well.
Many at the gathering shared their own experience of being facing discrimination.