Violent protests break out in Charlotte after police fatally shoot black man; 12 officers injured

CHARLOTTE — Police on Tuesday shot and killed a black man they said was armed outside an apartment complex, setting off violent protests that continued late into the night and left about two dozen people injured.

A large crowd of demonstrators gathered near the University of North Carolina at Charlotte on Tuesday night to protest the killing of Keith Lamont Scott, who was fatally shot by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officer earlier in the day. Scott’s family insisted he was not armed when he was killed near the university campus.

The demonstrations began peacefully, with some people chanting “black lives matter” and “hands up, don’t shoot.” News reports and posts on social media later showed police in riot gear firing tear gas and rubber bullets at the demonstrators and some people smashing out the windows of police cars.

Early Wednesday morning, protesters shut down traffic on Interstate 85. Some protesters opened up the backs of tractor trailers, took out boxes and set them on fire in the middle of the highway, WSOC reported. The station spoke to one truck driver who said people stole cargo from her trailer. Police reportedly used flash grenades to break up the crowd and had cleared the highway by early morning.

A few dozen other people broke down the doors of a nearby Walmart, then dispersed when police arrived, according to WSOC.

Police said 12 officers were injured during the demonstrations, one of them hit in the face with a rock. At least 11 people were taken from the demonstrations and treated for non-life threatening injuries, hospital officials told WSOC.

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch called on protesters to remain peaceful, criticizing the violence that injured law enforcement officers and demonstrators alike.

“Protest is protected by our Constitution and is a vital instrument for raising issues and creating change,” she said during remarks at a conference Wednesday morning in Washington. “But when it turns violent, it undermines the very justice that it seeks to achieve and I urge those demonstrating in Charlotte to remain peaceful in their expressions of protest and concern.”

Officers were looking for a suspect with an outstanding warrant at a complex near the university Tuesday afternoon, when they found Scott, 43, sitting a vehicle in the parking lot, police said in a statement.

Scott, who was not the suspect they were seeking, got out of the car holding a “firearm,” then got back in the car, according to police.

As officers approached, Scott again emerged from the car with the firearm and “posed an imminent deadly threat to the officers who subsequently fired their weapon striking the subject,” police said.

The officer who shot Scott is also black, police told The Washington Post.

Medics took Scott to the Carolinas Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. Detectives said they recovered a firearm Scott was holding during the shooting and were interviewing witnesses Tuesday night. Police declined to comment on the make and model of the firearm.

A woman who identified herself as Scott’s daughter said her father was unarmed and reading a book in his car when police shot and killed him.

In a widely circulated Facebook Live video, she said Scott was parked and waiting for a school bus to drop off his son when police arrived. Officers used a stun gun on him, then shot him four times with their service weapons, she said.

She added that Scott was disabled.

“My daddy didn’t do nothing; they just pulled up undercover,” she said in the video.

A police spokeswoman declined to comment on the video.

Police identified the officer who fired the fatal shot as Brentley Vinson, who has worked for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police force since July 2014. He has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation, which is standard procedure in officer-involved shootings.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts said on Twitter that the city will conduct a “full investigation” into the shooting.

Scott is one of at least 702 people who have been fatally shot by police so far this year, 163 of them black men, according to a Washington Post database tracking fatal officer-involved shootings.

Charlotte was the scene of another high-profile police shooting in September 2013, when Charlotte-Mecklenburg officers fatally shot Jonathan Ferrell after the black 24-year-old crashed his car in a residential neighborhood several miles from the complex where Scott was killed. Officer Randall Kerrick fired 12 rounds at Ferrell, who was unarmed, striking him 10 times. Police said Ferrell ignored officers’ instructions.

Last year, the jury deadlocked during Kerrick’s trial. While most jurors voted to acquit the officer, four had voted to convict him, and after a judge declared a retrial the state said it would not seek another trial. Ferrell’s family and the city of Charlotte settled a civil lawsuit stemming from the shooting for a reported $2.25 million.

Scott’s death came just one day after police in Tulsa released video of an officer shooting and killing an unarmed black man who had gotten out of a stalled SUV.

Terrence Crutcher, 40, was standing on the side of the road by the broken down vehicle on Friday evening when officers arrived and ordered him to show his hands. Police said they Tasered and shot Crutcher after he refused to obey officers’ commands and reached into the driver’s side window of the SUV.

But video released Monday showed Crutcher walking with his hands in the air, and an attorney for the man’s family said the vehicle’s window was rolled up when an officer opened fire on him. Police said they found PCP in the vehicle but no weapon.

Lynch, the attorney general, said the recent shootings in Charlotte and Tulsa again laid bare friction between law enforcement officials and the regions they police.

“These tragic incidents have once again left Americans with feelings of sorrow, anger and uncertainty,” Lynch said. “They have once again highlighted – in the most vivid and painful terms – the real divisions that still persist in this nation between law enforcement and communities of color.”

Lynch spoke two days after the Justice Department began a civil rights probe into the Tulsa shooting, and she said that federal officials were in touch with local authorities beginning their investigation into Scott’s death in Charlotte.

Hawkins and Bever reported from Washington. Mark Berman in Washington contributed. This post has been updated multiple times.

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