CHARLOTTE, North Carolina— Protests turned violent for a second night in Charlotte after Tuesday’s fatal police shooting of a black man. Late on Wednesday, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency for the city and deployed the National Guard and State Highway Patrol troopers to assist local police.
One person was shot at the protest and was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries, the Medic agency said. The city initially reported that he died, but later retracted that, saying he was on life-support.
City leaders appealed for calm and promised a thorough investigation of the shooting that triggered hours of violent protest and shut down Interstate 85 on Tuesday.
But the unrest continued on Wednesday night, with police using tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters who blocked the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets in the heart of uptown, then occupied the EpiCentre entertainment complex. Pockets of the city were on edge late on Wednesday afternoon, with some uptown businesses apparently sending workers home early over uncertainty about further protests.
The Charlotte Chamber urged businesses in uptown and University City to “remove or chain down all tables, chairs, signs or planters.”
At about 4:30 on Wednesday, a group of two dozen protesters stood in front of the Bank of America Tower at Trade and Tryon streets. They silently stood and held signs reading “Black Lives Matter” and “Stop Killing Us.”
Andrew Monroe said the protest was organized informally by a group of black professionals. “What we want to do is show we’re not dangerous,” he said. “We want to show the world it’s not thugs out here.”
Monroe said black people deserve to be safe in the streets and don’t feel that way in the spate of recent police shootings. Across town at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, students gathered at the Union and laid down in protest.
Earlier in the day, authorities said they were reviewing video from body and dashboard cameras from the deadly confrontation in University City. Despite demands by some activists for that footage to be publicly released, police said they would not do so during an active investigation.
Keith Lamont Scott, 43, was fatally shot on Tuesday. The officer who shot him, Brentley Vinson, 26, is also black. Sixteen Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers suffered minor injuries during the chaotic night.
Word of the incident exploded on social media and drew national attention in the wake of police shootings of black men that led to protests from Ferguson, Missouri, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and spawned the Black Lives Matter movement.
“This is a very difficult situation for everyone involved,” Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts said at a Wednesday news conference. “I’d like to ask people to wait until all information is available.” She expressed the city’s condolences to Scott’s family and concern for the injured officers.
The chain of events began around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, when police were conducting a search for someone who had an outstanding warrant at The Village at College Downs complex on Old Concord Road, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Kerr Putney said.
Scott was not the person they were looking for, but police saw him in his car in the apartment complex.
They saw Scott get out of the car, then get back in, Putney said. They saw he had a handgun, approached the car and ordered him to drop the weapon.
Despite the commands, he got out of the car with the gun as officers continued to tell him to drop the weapon, Putney said.
Within seconds, Scott was shot. Authorities said Scott posed an imminent threat of danger.
Police do not yet know definitively if Scott had raised his weapon, Putney said. But he said that a person’s gestures, aggressive behavior and other factors can also be interpreted as “imminent threats” under North Carolina law.
Police did not disclose how many times Scott was shot.
A woman who identified herself as Scott’s daughter said on a live-streamed video that Scott was unarmed, reading a book in his car and waiting for the school bus to drop off his son. The video, viewed more than half-a-million times, elevated the incident to a national stage within hours.
Putney said no book was found at the scene. He said he did not know if the gun found near Scott was loaded.
Some civil-rights activists and neighbors questioned the police account of the shooting on Wednesday, saying Scott was disabled and was waiting for his son’s school bus. Activists demanded answers from police and called on protesters to be peaceful.
The chief said he wanted to dispel false rumors and get as many facts out to the public as he could in the midst of the ongoing investigations.
“People are watching how we respond, how we react,” Putney said. “I’m optimistic that the results of our actions will be positive…but it’s time for the voices of the majority to stand up and be heard. It’s time to change the narrative, because I can tell you from the facts that the stories will be different as to how it’s been portrayed so far, especially through social media.”
Scott’s mother, Vernita Walker of Charleston, said her son had seven children.
“He was a family man…and he was a likeable person. And he loved his wife and his children.” She said she had just talked with her son on the phone that day.
At the shooting scene early on Wednesday morning, activists, residents and citizens gathered to support the family and raised questions about police officials’ accounts. Some witnesses said they believed the officer who shot Scott was a white man, not a black officer as police said.
Several apartment residents who said they knew Scott and his family said he suffered brain damage from an accident that affected how he communicates. They said the brain damage left him unable to be in the sun, so he waited for his son’s elementary-school bus each day in his white truck in a shady part of the apartment parking lot.
Yolanda Haskins, a 10-year resident of the neighborhood, said her children play with Scott’s and she would see Scott at the bus stop most afternoons. She said Scott and his wife and children had moved into the neighborhood over the summer and were living with relatives there. “They’re just friendly people,” Haskins said.
She said she was late getting to the bus stop on Tuesday and when she arrived, the complex was flooded with police and emergency personnel.