A third night of protests over a fatal police shooting in Charlotte gave way to quiet streets early Friday after the city’s mayor enacted a curfew and rifle-toting members of the National Guard arrived to guard the city’s business district.
The largely peaceful Thursday night demonstrations called on police to release video that could resolve wildly different accounts of the shooting this week of a black man. The family of Keith Lamont Scott, 43, was shown the footage Thursday of his fatal shooting and demanded that police release it to the public.
Demonstrators chanted “release the tape” and “we want the tape” Thursday while briefly blocking an intersection near Bank of America headquarters and later climbing the steps to the door of the city government center. Later, several dozen demonstrators walked onto an interstate highway that passes through the city, but they were pushed back by police in riot gear.
Still, the protests lacked the violence and property damage of previous nights — and a midnight curfew enacted by the mayor encouraged a stopping point. Local officers’ ranks were augmented by members of the National Guard carrying rifles and guarding office buildings against the threat of property damage.
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts signed documents Thursday night for the citywide curfew that runs from midnight to 6 a.m. After the curfew took effect, police allowed the crowd of demonstrators to thin without forcing them off the street. Police Capt. 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 police dashcam and body camera footage of Scott’s death earlier this week. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said Thursday that releasing the footage of Scott’s killing could undermine the investigation. He told reporters the video will be made public when he believes there is a “compelling reason” to do so.
“You shouldn’t expect it to be released,” Putney said. “I’m not going to jeopardize the investigation.”
Charlotte is the latest U.S. 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.
Protests in Charlotte turned violent Wednesday as demonstrators attacked reporters and others, set fires and smashed windows of hotels, office buildings and restaurants in the city’s bustling business district.
Forty-four people were arrested after Wednesday’s protests, and one protester who was shot died at the hospital Thursday; city officials said police did not shoot the man and no arrests have been made in 26-year-old Justin Carr’s death.
Police have said Scott was shot to death Tuesday by a black officer after he disregarded repeated warnings to drop his gun. Neighbors, though, 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.
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, an attorney for Scott’s family, watched the video with the slain man’s relatives. He said that in the video, 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,” Bamberg said in a statement.
Scott was shot as he walked slowly backward with his hands by his side, Bamberg said.
The lawyer said at a news conference earlier in the day that Scott’s wife saw him get shot, “and that’s something she will never, ever forget.” That is the first time anyone connected with the case has said the wife witnessed the shooting. Bamberg gave no details on what the wife saw.
The police chief acknowledged that he has promised transparency in the investigation, but said, “I’m telling you right now, if you think I say we should display a victim’s worst day for consumption, that is not the transparency I’m speaking of.”