Violence erupted in parts of downtown Charlotte on Wednesday as anger continued to build over the deadly police shooting of a black man and the different stories about what happened from authorities and the victim’s family and neighbors.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard after Charlotte’s police chief said he needed the help.
“Any violence directed toward our citizens or police officers or destruction of property should not be tolerated,” McCrory said in a statement.
“I support and commend the law enforcement officials for their bravery and courage during this difficult situation.”
What started out as a prayer vigil turned into an angry march and then a night of violence after a man was shot and critically wounded as protesters charged police in riot gear trying to protect an upscale hotel. Police initially said the man had died, but later corrected the statement saying he was on life support. Police didn’t shoot the man, city officials said.
Video obtained and verified by The Associated Press, which was recorded right after the shooting, shows someone lying in a pool of blood as people scream and a voice yells for someone to call for help. People are then told to back up from the scene.
Charlotte-Macklenburg police tweeted early Thursday that at least four officers suffered non-life threatening injuries in the unrest.
Demonstrators shouted “black lives matter” and “hands up; don’t shoot” while cursing at officers with bicycles blocking intersections. As the protesters approached the Omni hotel, officers in riot gear lined up outside arm in arm and a few marchers threw bottles and clods of dirt.
Immediately after the shooting, police began firing flash grenades and protesters threw fireworks. Police then fired tear gas, and the crowd of hundreds dispersed.
But not all the marchers left. Police in riot gear then began marching arm in arm through downtown Charlotte intersections, shooting tear gas at people who charged them. At least one protester knocked down a CNN reporter during a live shot.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney defended his officers’ actions in an interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly on “The Kelly File.”
“We’re trying to disperse the crowd,” Putney said. “We’ve been very patient, but now they’ve become very violent.”
Officials have refused to release video of the shooting of Scott by Officer Brentley Vinson — who is also African-American — and two starkly different versions have emerged as a result. Police say Scott disregarded repeated demands to drop his gun, while neighborhood residents say he was holding a book, not a weapon, as he waited for his son to get off the school bus.
Chief Putney said the police version of Tuesday’s shooting was “based on evidence” and testimony from eyewitnesses.
“We’re just going to present the facts and let the justice system run its course,” he told “The Kelly File.”
Earlier Wednesday, Putney told a news conference that officers were serving arrest warrants on another person when they saw Scott get out of a vehicle with a handgun. Vinson, a plainclothes officer wearing a vest emblazoned “Police,” shot Scott after the officer and other uniformed members of the force made “loud, clear” demands that he drop the gun, the chief said.
Putney was adamant that Scott posed a threat, even if he didn’t point his weapon at officers, and said a gun was found next to the dead man. “I can tell you we did not find a book,” the chief said.
Neighbors, though, said that the officer who fired was white and that Scott had his hands in the air.
There were hints earlier Wednesday that Charlotte would suffer a second night of destruction. As Putney, who is black, and Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, who is white, stood at City Hall and appealed for calm, African-American leaders who said they were speaking for Scott’s family held their own news conference near where he was killed Tuesday, reminding the crowd of other shootings and abuses of black men.
John Barnett, who runs a civil rights group called True Healing Under God, or THUG, warned that the shooting video might be the only way for the police to regain the community’s trust: “Just telling us this is still under investigation is not good enough for the windows of the Walmart.”
The North Carolina NAACP said in a statement early Thursday that it stood with those mourning in Charlotte. The organization called on city officials to be fully transparent with any video or information that could bring light to the Scott shooting.
On Tuesday night, dozens of demonstrators threw rocks at police and reporters, damaged squad cars, closed part of Interstate 85, and looted and set on fire a stopped truck. Authorities used tear gas to break up the protests. Sixteen officers suffered minor injuries. One person was arrested.
The violence broke out shortly after a woman who appeared to be Scott’s daughter posted a profanity-laced, hour-long video on Facebook, saying her father had an unspecified disability and was unarmed.