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Charlotte police chief: Family will be allowed to watch video of shooting

Published 22/09/2016

Police fire tear gas at protesters in Charlotte (AP)
Police fire tear gas at protesters in Charlotte (AP)

Charlotte's police chief has said he plans to show video of an officer shooting a black man to the slain man's family, but the video will not be immediately released to the public.

Charlottte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney told reporters during a news conference that the video does not definitively show 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott pointing a gun at anyone.

Mr Putney said he is working to honour the request from the family of Mr Scott to view the video. It is unclear when or if the video might be released publicly.

"Right now my priority is the people who really are the victims of the shooting," Mr Putney 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."

The video could be key to resolving the chasm between police, who say Mr Scott refused repeated commands to drop his gun, and residents who say he was unarmed.

Residents say Mr Scott was unarmed, holding only a book, and disabled by a brain injury. But it is unclear what the body cameras worn by three officers who were present during the shooting during the shooting may have captured. The plain-clothes officer who shot Mr Scott, Brently Vinson, was not wearing a camera. Mr Vinson, who is black, has been placed on leave, standard procedure in such cases.

As officials tried to quell the unrest, at least three major businesses were asking their employees to stay home for the day as the city remained on edge. Mayor Jennifer Roberts told ABC's Good Morning America that officials were considering a curfew, and she said in an interview with NPR that the timing of the video's release depends on how the investigation progresses.

When asked if officials should not be more transparent, she said: "The transparency would be helpful if the footage is clear and if it covers all the different parts of what happened that evening. Since I haven't seen it, I'm not certain of that and that may be the case. There were a couple of different body cameras, there was a dash camera, but as you know sometimes those can be not clear."

North Carolina has a law that takes effect on October 1 requiring a judge to approve releasing police video.

The streets were mostly quiet on Thursday, but Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Duke Energy all told employees not to venture into North Carolina's largest city after Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency on Wednesday night and called in the National Guard after the police chief said he needed the help.

The North Carolina National Guard arrived at a Charlotte armoury early on Thursday, and Guard vehicles left the armoury about 8am.

Federal help also is on the way, with the Justice Department sending to Charlotte a team of trained peacekeepers designed to help resolve community conflict. The department's Community Relations Service has been deployed to other cities roiled by tense flare-ups between police and residents.

A peaceful prayer vigil on Wednesday night turned into an angry march and then a night of violence after a protester was shot and critically wounded as people charged police in riot gear trying to protect an upscale hotel. Police did not shoot the man, city officials said.

The unrest took many by surprise in Charlotte. The city managed to pull through a racially charged shooting three years ago without the unrest that erupted in recent years in places such as Baltimore, Milwaukee and Ferguson, Missouri.

In 2013, Charlotte police charged one of their own, Randall Kerrick with voluntary manslaughter within days, after the white officer shot an unarmed black man who had been in a wreck and was looking for help. The jury deadlocked and the charge was dropped last summer. The city saw a few protests but no violence.

On Wednesday, hundreds of protesters who were shouting "black lives matter" and "hands up, don't shoot" left after police fired flash grenades and tear gas after the shooting. But several groups of a dozen or more protesters stayed behind, attacking people, including reporters, shattering windows to hotels, office buildings and restaurants and setting small fires. The NASCAR Hall of Fame was among the places damaged.

Authorities said three people and four police officers were injured. Videos and pictures on Twitter showed reporters and other people being attacked.

Mr Putney, the police chief, was angered by the stories on social media, especially a profanity-laced, hour-long video on Facebook, where a woman identifying herself as Mr Scott's daughter screamed "My daddy is dead!" at officers at the shooting scene and repeating that he was only holding a book.

Mr Putney was adamant that Mr Scott posed a threat, even if he did not point his weapon at officers, and said a gun was found next to the dead man. He also said: "I can tell you we did not find a book."


The chief state prosecutor in Charlotte has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the shooting.

District Attorney R Andrew Murray said in a statement that he was making the request for a state investigation at the request of Mr Scott's family.

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