Crime & Courts

Staggered by protests, city regains its footing

Still in an official state of emergency and under a midnight curfew, Charlotte’s uptown relaxed Friday after three days of passionate protests and occasional violence.

People went to restaurants, walked their dogs on the street and generally ratcheted down the tension that came in the wake of a police killing Tuesday of a man in University City.

Even a dramatic video recording the fatal shots and released by attorneys for the family of the dead man, Keith Lamont Scott, did not appear to raise the level of anger or protest in the city’s urban core.

Police and National Guard troops maintained a visible presence throughout uptown. The EpiCentre entertainment complex, magnet for some of the week’s most tumultuous upheaval, closed down early.

Still, there was still plenty of evidence of civic dissent.

Protesters supported

After darkness fell Friday, protesters gathered at the crossroads of Trade and Tryon holding signs.

“#it was a book,” said one, referring to early reports from his family and neighbors that Scott had a book, not a gun, when shot.

Around 8:30 p.m., about 100 demonstrators moved past the intersection, chanting: “We’re shutting down police brutality,” and “Black Lives Matter.”

“Everyone is being peaceful,” said police Capt. Mike Campagna. “Everything went well last night. There’s no reason that can’t happen tonight.”

For a short time, marchers went up on Interstate 277 at Caldwell Street, where they encountered police in riot gear. Police moved them off the highway and the demonstrators changed course for Church Street nearby.

They gathered at Romare Bearden Park, and then, with the crowd growing to several hundred, they marched to the steps of Charlotte police headquarters and chanted “Release the Tapes!”

Eric Gordon, a musician from Fort Lauderdale who arrived in Charlotte Friday, had seen the Scott video, which he called disturbing. “I feel like he was no threat,” he said.

Gordon said he came to Charlotte to support the protests. “I’m all about tranquility and peace,” he said. “I want everyone in unity.”

After largely peaceful protests Thursday night, uptown regained a bit of its corporate pace during the day Friday.

Wells Fargo told thousands of employees to report to work as usual at the bank’s uptown towers after urging them to work from home the day before.

But Bank of America, which had a branch bank stormed by vandals outside its signature headquarters skyscraper Wednesday, told its employees to work remotely again Friday.

At the EpiCentre, which suffered looting and significant damage Wednesday night, signs said it would close at 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Authorities said the National Guard and extra State Highway Patrol troopers would remain in Charlotte through Sunday’s NFL Panthers day game against Minnesota.

Agents of the State Bureau of Investigation, who have taken over the investigation into the killing of Scott, have identified and interviewed most of the critical witnesses in the case, authorities said, and have obtained copies of police dashboard and body camera footage.

Widespread calls have been made for the city to release police videos of the shooting, including from Scott’s family. Late Friday, the SBI issued a statement that left the decision with Charlotte leaders and hinted that the release is under consideration.

“CMPD remains the custodian of the original recording and as such has the legal authority to release it,” the agency said. “It is understood discussions are actively underway between local officials regarding the release of that video.”

New videos

Attorneys for the family of Scott released a cellphone video taken by his wife, Rakeyia Scott, that captures the moment of the shooting.

Rakeyia Scott was heading to her husband’s truck, where he was sitting, when she heard officers. “Drop the gun!” police can be heard shouting at least seven times in the shaky, two-minute video.

“Don’t shoot him, Don’t shoot him!” Rakeyia Scott cries.

“He doesn’t have a gun,” she yells. “He’s not going to do anything to you guys.”

At one point, she tells police that her husband has “TBI,” or traumatic brain injury, and just had his medicine.

As police continue to demand Scott drop his gun, she calls out, “Keith, get out the car. Keith! Keith! Don’t you do it! Don’t you do it! Keith!”

Four shots are heard in rapid succession.

Then she is heard screaming, “Did you shoot him? Did you shoot him? Did you shoot him? He better not be f------ dead. … These are the police officers that shot my husband, and he better live. … He better live. Because he didn’t do nothing to them.”

A second video was posted on YouTube Friday that was apparently taken by someone on a balcony in the apartment complex after the shooting.

Officers stand over and move around the body of Scott in the parking lot as a woman is heard to say, “He ain’t moving.’ ” At another point, the woman says, “And they still putting the handcuffs on him.”

Health problems from crash

SBI agents went door-to-door Friday talking to neighbors at the Village at College Downs apartment complex on Old Concord Road where the shooting took place.

Several neighbors told the Observer he often sat on the stoop of his sister’s home, keeping an eye on his seven children and those of his neighbors.

He would hand out candy to youngsters, and occasionally dollar bills, they said.

“He was very humanitarian,” Fostoria Robinson said. “He was like a big, gentle bear. He was just a family member who tried to live right.”

Scott had been in a severe motorcycle crash about a year ago, family members and his attorneys said, and he suffered traumatic brain injury and hip problems.

Neighbors said he walked slowly and with a limp, sometimes using a cane. Since the crash, he would sometimes stutter and have trouble remembering what he said.

Neighbors said he often sat reading in his white truck near the entrance to the neighborhood, waiting for his son to get off the school bus. That’s what they believe he was doing the afternoon he was shot, they said.

He was ‘Robocop’

Scott’s mother, Vernita Scott-Walker, said her son once worked as a security guard for a Charlotte mall.

He was big and broad-shouldered, and when he put on his security guard uniform, he cut such an impressive figure that she called him “Robocop.”

He was the youngest of her three boys and the second youngest of her seven children. “My baby,” she called him.

As a child, he was quiet. But as he grew older, he became talkative and outgoing. He talked with her by phone every day. He loved to travel with his family, to listen to music, to dance and to read – particularly the Bible and the Quran.

“He was a family man first,” she said in a telephone interview from her home in Charleston. “He was a loving husband, and a happy dad with his children. He was a church-going person.”

Scott had a minor police record, but no felony convictions.

He was found guilty of driving while intoxicated in April 2015 in Gaston County.

In April 2004, he was convicted of misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon in Mecklenburg County.

In 1992, he pleaded guilty in Charleston County, S.C., to carrying a concealed weapon (not a gun), simple assault and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

McCrory on violence

In Raleigh, Gov. Pat McCrory said it had cost $300,000 so far for extra law enforcement forces and National Guard sent to Charlotte.

“This state, this governor and the city of Charlotte,” McCrory said, “will not tolerate destruction of property, the harming of individuals and especially attacks toward the men and women of law enforcement, and the men and women of our National Guard.”

He complimented Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police on their handling of the civic unrest so far – both in arresting those committing crimes and trying to restore trust in the community.

“You couldn’t ask for better professionalism,” he said. “You saw people hugging them, them hugging back. It was the best of America that you saw.”

Late Friday, police reported making 47 arrests since Tuesday. Of those, 37 were from Charlotte and four others from elsewhere in North Carolina.

McCrory said demands for police video tapes of the shooting to be released needed to balanced against the need for a fair investigation by the SBI and protection of the rights of those under scrutiny.

CMPD Chief Kerr Putney said Friday that eventually the videos will come out. “It’s a matter of when. … It’s not that I want to hide anything.”

Putney said releasing video without the right context could inflame the situation, adding, “The video is not a panacea.”

At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama thinks it should be up to local officials to decide whether to release the police videos.

“But as a matter of principle,” Earnest said, “I think the president has reached a pretty common-sense conclusion that when you’re in a position needing to build trust with a group of people, being as candid as possible is usually the best approach.”

Other developments

In other activity Friday related to the shooting:

▪ Obama called for an end to the violence on ABC’s “Good Morning America, saying “looting, breaking glass, are not going to advance the cause. In Charlotte, my hope is people in the community pull together and do things the right way.”

▪ A New York Times editorial demanded authorities release the police videos, saying, “Keeping the public in the dark heightens tension and undermines trust in law enforcement.”

▪ Rayquan Borum, 21, was arrested in the shooting death of Justin Carr, 26, during the violence Wednesday night on East Trade Street. Putney said police do not yet know whether Carr and Borum knew each other.

▪ Charlotte’s city website went down for a time Wednesday night, spokesman Ken Brown said. He said the city is looking into a claim that the website was hacked and that city and police employee data were compromised.

▪ Mayor Jennifer Roberts praised the restraint by thousands of protesters who marched in Charlotte Thursday and early Friday. “Last night was what a lawful demonstration looks like,” she said.

▪ Putney said Friday that the curfew was ordered after police got intelligence that a violent group was coming from South Carolina to join the protests. Aside from marchers clashing briefly with police on Interstate 277, there was no violence Thursday night and only three arrests.

Police said that during the demonstrations, one officer suffered a minor hand injury, two were sprayed with a chemical agent and a National Guard member had a minor injury.

▪ Scores of students conducted a peaceful protest in the courtyard of Mallard Creek High School. It lasted about 45 minutes and had the support of the school administration. “It was basically a huge crowd talking about the Black Lives Matter movement … and how we need to be peaceful,” student Kayla Smith said.

Celeste Smith, Steve Harrison, Mark Price, Katherine Peralta, Joe Marusak, Ronnie Glassberg and Alex Daugherty of McClatchy’s Washington Bureau contributed.

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