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Charlotte police shooting: Scott had gun, not a book, chief says

Posted at 6:56 AM, Sep 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-21 14:12:29-04

CHARLOTTE — After a night of violent protests in Charlotte, the police chief tried to quash rumors about what happened to Keith Lamont Scott.

Scott, a father of seven, was killed by police in an apartment complex parking lot as officers looked for another man named in a warrant they were trying to serve.

His family said Scott, an African-American, was unarmed and sitting in his car reading a book, waiting for his son to come home from school.

But Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said Scott exited his car with a gun, not a book. He said officers couldn’t find a book at the scene.

“It’s time for the voiceless majority to stand up and be heard,” the police chief, who is also black, said Wednesday.

“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.”

Putney said both evidence and witnesses support the officers’ claim that Scott was armed.

Officers repeatedly told Scott to drop his gun, Putney said, but he didn’t. Officer Brentley Vinson, who is also black, then shot him.

The chief said he was not certain whether Scott pointed his gun at officers; Vinson was not wearing a body camera at the time.

But a person doesn’t have to point a weapon directly at police to spur deadly force, CNN law enforcement analyst Art Roderick said.

“You don’t have to actually wait until a handgun is pointed at you because you’re talking milliseconds of a decision as to whether you’re going to pull your trigger, or that individual is going to pull their trigger,” Roderick said.

Who is the officer?

Vinson has worked for Charlotte-Mecklenburg police for two years.

He played football at Liberty University from 2009-2012 and majored in criminal justice, according to his biography on Liberty University’s website.

Former teammate Austin Marsh told CNN that Vinson was a “standup guy.”

“It breaks my heart to see something like this happen, and I have a really hard time believing that Brent shot a man in his car while waiting for his (son) for no reason,” Marsh said.

“Brent has always been a great guy founded on good morals. I find it very hard to believe that he would gun down an innocent man.”

CNN briefly spoke to Vinson’s father, Alex Vinson, on the phone. The father asked for privacy and said no one in the family would be speaking to the media.

The officer has been placed on paid administrative leave, Mayor Jennifer Roberts said.

Bottles, rocks and fires

Hundreds of protesters rallied overnight, with some throwing rocks at police and setting fires.

Many chanted “Black lives matter.”

Some blocked Interstate 85 and started a fire in the middle of the highway, forcing vehicles and tractor-trailers to stop as far as the eye could see.

Protesters removed boxes from the backs of semitrailers and set the items on fire. Police in riot gear formed a line and forced crowds away from the highway.

Others jumped on top of a police van and stomped on it, breaking the windshield and other windows.

Putney said 16 officers were injured in the protests.

At least seven people were hospitalized with minor injuries, CNN affiliate WSOC reported. Five others were arrested, WSOC said.

‘When will our lives truly matter?’

Corine Mack, who attended the protests, said the community is frustrated.

“When will our lives truly matter? A black father is dead. There are children tonight who will never see their father again,” said Mack, president of the Charlotte chapter of the NAACP.

“It clearly appears as if our lives don’t matter. We need to change policies. We need to change procedure. We need to hold police accountable. It’s a modern-day lynching. Charlotte is not a good place right now; we’re in the throes of this problem.”

The mayor called for a full investigation into the shooting.

“The community deserves answers and full investigation will ensue. Will be reaching out to community leaders to work together,” Roberts tweeted.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said Wednesday he has been in touch with the mayor and other city officials.

“We will do everything we can to support the mayor and the police chief in their efforts to keep the community calm and to get this situation resolved,” McCrory said in a statement.

“My prayers are with the Scott family and also our law enforcement, especially the 16 police officers who were injured last night.”

Another controversial police shooting

The Charlotte case is the latest in a series of controversial shootings of black men by police. Protesters have been demanding justice and an end to police brutality for months.

Last week’s fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man in Tulsa, Oklahoma, also sparked protests after video of the killing was aired Monday.

Crutcher’s father, the Rev. Joey Crutcher, said the overnight protests in Charlotte are “just a continuation of the same thing over and over and over again.”

“And it’s perpetuated against people of color more than anything else,” he told CNN’s “New Day” on Wednesday. “If it would have been in the reverse, if it would have been a Caucasian, it would have been totally different.”

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch acknowledged the country’s racial tensions after the latest police shootings.

“These tragic incidents have once again left Americans with feelings of sorrow, anger and uncertainty. They have once again highlighted — in the most vivid and painful terms — the real divisions that still persist in this nation between law enforcement and communities of color,” Lynch said Wednesday.

She also denounced the violence that erupted in Charlotte.

“Protest is protected by our Constitution and is a vital instrument for raising issues and creating change. But when it turns violent, it undermines the very justice that it seeks to achieve.”

Ed Lavandera reported from Charlotte, and Holly Yan and AnneClaire Stapleton reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Faith Karimi, Steve Almasy, Keith Allen, Christine Sever and Shawn Nottingham contributed to this report.