Tensions rise at Plaza Midwood safety meeting when protesters show up

Mayor Jennifer Roberts addresses group at Plaza Midwood community meeting
Mayor Jennifer Roberts addresses group at Plaza Midwood community meeting

Police officers and Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts joined a Plaza Midwood community meeting Thursday to discuss neighborhood safety, but the discussion turned tense when another group showed up to press city officials about the fatal police shooting of African American Keith Lamont Scott.

Many of the Plaza Midwood neighbors who attended said they were expecting to discuss the recent homicide of Katherine Jones, who was killed while walking home from work in the neighborhood. Her unsolved murder has put the community on edge.

When the topic was pushed to the September shooting Keith Lamont Scott by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer, neighbors began arguing with the unexpected protest group. The shooting of Scott has been a divisive issue in Charlotte. Police say Scott was armed with a gun and refused to follow repeated police commands. Critics of the shooting say it is an example of police violence against African Americans.

Some among the protesters said they were alarmed by a recent Facebook post in which a man proposed starting an armed patrol for Plaza Midwood.

Just days after Katherine Jones was killed, Facebook user Scott Yamanashi wrote online: “In light of recent events I want to start an armed neighborhood bike/watch patrol for late Thursdays through Saturdays to help escort walkers and look out for shady stuff we can inform police about.”

Eleanor Mendoza, a young woman protesting police at the meeting, said she was alarmed by the post.

“We saw the post. We know what he meant,” said Mendoza. “He wanted an armed militia.”

Yamanashi was in attendance at the meeting and tried to apologize for the post.

“I'm sorry to everybody for all the misinformation and fear,” said Yamanashi to the crowd. “I'm looking for people to come ride with me so none of us have to be armed.”

Mendoza and several others began arguing with Yamanashi. Well after the meeting had disbanded members of the neighborhood association were still having conversations with the members of the protest group.

“There's a lot of people concerned and that’s why you saw such a big attendance here tonight,” said Plaza Midwood Neighborhood Association President Renee Bradley.

Officers from the CMPD told the crowd they were working hard to find Jones’ killer, but said at this time, the investigation is still wide open.

Despite the homicide, violent crime in the Plaza Midwood area is actually down according to Captain Torri Tellis with the CMPD.

“Our expectation is that anytime something occurs in your backyard, that everyone would actually be concerned and come to the table to have dialogue,” said Tellis.