Charlotte police urge calm in aftermath of violent protests

Top officials in Charlotte urged the public to stay calm following a night of unrest and violence over the latest fatal shooting of a black man by law enforcement.

Hundreds of people took to the streets near the apartment complex in the North Carolina city where Keith Lamont Scott, 43, was shot and killed. These demonstrations grew more violent into the night — as rioters lit fires and threw rocks. Police in riot gear retaliated with tear gas.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Kerr Putney said at a press conference Wednesday morning that several orders for dispersal went unheeded. At least 16 officers were injured and several police vehicles were damaged, he said.

“Our officers acting heroically were just trying to de-escalate the situation and resolve it as peacefully as possible,” Putney said. “As always, our officers tried to facilitate demonstrations and protests. They protect the rights of our citizens, but when that behavior becomes violent, aggressive and destructive, we have to act as we did.”

Slideshow: Protests erupt after deadly police shooting in Charlotte, N.C. >>>

A protester stands with his left arm extended and fist clenched in front of a line of police officers in Charlotte, N.C. on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016. (Photo: Jeff Siner/The Charlotte Observer via AP)
A protester stands in front of a line of police officers in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday. (Photo: Jeff Siner/The Charlotte Observer via AP)

According to Putney, Scott was armed with a handgun when he stepped out of his vehicle and did not obey loud and clear commands from police that were heard by witnesses. Scott’s family, on the other hand, has told the media he was unarmed and reading a book at the time.

The officer who shot and killed him, Brentley Vinson, has been placed on administrative leave.

The investigation is ongoing, and only one person has been arrested so far for participating in the violent protests, he said.

“Now we have a challenge here in Charlotte. People are watching how we respond, how we react,” he continued. “And I’m optimistic that the results of our action will be positive, will have positive outcomes. But it’s time for the voiceless majority to stand up and be heard. It’s time to change the narrative, because I can tell you from the facts that the story’s a little bit different as to how it’s been portrayed so far, especially through social media.”

At the same press conference, Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts said that local authorities have already spoken to many community and faith leaders, who join them in calling for peace, calm and dialogue. She has also been in touch with the White House, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and local elected officials, she said.

Charlotte police work the scene of a shooting on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016 in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo: Jeff Siner/The Charlotte Observer via AP)
Charlotte police work the scene of a shooting on Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo: Jeff Siner/The Charlotte Observer via AP)

“I want to thank all of them for being part of the collaboration that will help our community move forward in a peaceful manner,” she said. “I am confident in Charlotte’s strong police and community relations. There are so many good folk in this community who have been working so hard to keep that dialogue productive and to keep that dialogue open.”

Roberts vowed to be thorough and transparent in releasing accurate information to the public as soon as it becomes available, and to dispel any circulating misinformation.

The shooting is the latest in which a black man was killed by a police officer. On Monday, police in Tulsa, Okla., released video footage of Terence Crutcher’s death, which also resulted in protests.

Willie Ratchford, the executive director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee, offered his condolences to the Scott family and the officers injured in the riots.

“As a community, we in Charlotte-Mecklenburg have always worked tirelessly to address concerns surrounding police and community relations,” Ratchford said. “We have encouraged our citizens to exchange personal stories, experiences and diverse perspectives to foster growth and healing during difficult times.”