CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (REUTERS) – Police in Charlotte came under growing pressure on Thursday (Sept 22) to release a video showing the fatal shooting of a black man by officers that has sparked two nights of violent protests in North Carolina’s largest city.
The video will only be shown to the family of Keith Scott, 43, who was shot dead by a black police officer in the parking lot of an apartment complex on Tuesday afternoon, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said.
“I’m not going to release the video right now,” Putney told reporters, the morning after nine people were injured and 44 arrested in riots over Scott’s killing.
He said the video supports the police account of what happened, but does not definitively show Scott pointing a gun at officers.
The Scott family had not yet seen the video as of 4pm EDT on Thursday (4am on Friday, Singapore time), but expects to do so later in the day, said attorney Justin Bamberg. They will express an opinion on whether it should be released to the public afterward, he said.
“We have become desensitised to killing in this country and these videos have contributed to that,” Bamberg told reporters, referring to a series of videos of police shootings of black men that have been made public this year.
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency during Wednesday night’s rioting, which saw one man critically wounded by a gunshot. At least eight more civilians and four police officers were injured and 44 people arrested for charges ranging from assault to failure to disperse.
Many of the protesters dispute the official account of Scott’s death. Police contend he was carrying a gun when he approached officers and ignored repeated orders to drop it. His family and a witness say he was holding a book, not a firearm, when he was killed.
The decision to withhold the footage from the public was criticised by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and clergy members from the Charlotte area. “There must be transparency and the videos must be released,” Reverend William Barber, who sits on the national board of the NAACP, told a news conference.
Charlotte’s reluctance to release the video stands in contrast to Oklahoma, where officials on Monday released footage of the fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher by police after his vehicle broke down on a highway. Tulsa County prosecutors on Thursday charged the officer who shot Crutcher with first-degree manslaughter and issued a warrant for her arrest.
‘ONE IS TOO MANY’
The killings were the latest in a long series of controversial fatal police shootings of black men across the United States, sparking more than two years of protests asserting racial bias and excessive force by police and giving rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Scott’s killing was the 214th of a black person by US police this year out of an overall total of 821, according to Mapping Police Violence, an anti-police violence group created out of the protest movement. There is no national-level government data on police shootings.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus walked to the Justice Department on Thursday to deliver a letter to Attorney-General Loretta Lynch demanding action.
“Enough is enough. One is too many,” said Representative G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina. “The Department of Justice must aggressively pursue investigations, indictments, and yes, prosecutions against any and all law-enforcement officers who harm or kill innocent, unarmed African-American citizens.”
Overnight, protesters were seen smashing windows and grabbing items from a convenience store as well as a shop that sells athletic wear for the National Basketball Association’s Charlotte Hornets. Protesters also set fire to trash cans.
Hundreds of additional state police officers and National Guard troops will be deployed to Charlotte’s streets on Thursday to prevent a repeat of the violence, Putney said. But officials said they had no plans to impose a curfew.
“It should be business as usual,” Putney said. “We don’t see the need to definitively shut the city down at a specific hour.”
Officials initially said that a man had died during the protests and also that he had been shot by a civilian. Putney on Thursday said the department was looking into allegations that he had been shot by a police officer.
Authorities have said the officer who shot Scott, Brentley Vinson, was in plainclothes and not wearing a body camera. But according to officials, video was recorded by other officers and by cameras mounted on patrol cars.
Todd Walther, the Charlotte Fraternal Order of Police official, said releasing the video would satisfy some people, but not everyone, he added.
“The clear facts will come out and the truth will come out. It’s unfortunate to say that we have to be patient, but that’s the way it’s going to have to be,” Walter said.