CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Amid anxiety and unease over the police shooting of a black man, demonstrations in Charlotte have gone from violent to peaceful, although demands to see video of the encounter remain at the forefront of discussions for those taking to the streets.
Many of the hundreds massed outside at the Charlotte police department building Saturday afternoon chanted the name “Keith Scott.” The 43-year-old black man was shot to death by a black officer earlier in the week, and police have not released dashcam and body camera video.
Protesters marched Saturday through the streets of a city on edge after Scott’s shooting death. The demonstrations reached a violent crescendo on Wednesday before the National Guard was called in a day later to maintain order.
The next two nights of protests were free of property damage and violence, with organizers stressing a message of peace at the end of the week.
Some video has been released, although not the one demonstrators clamored for. On Friday, footage recorded by Scott’s wife and released by his family shows his wife repeatedly telling officers he is not armed and pleading with them not to shoot her husband as they shout at him to drop a gun.
The 2 ½-minute video released by the family does not show the shooting, though gunshots can be heard. In the video Scott’s wife, Rakeyia Scott, tells officers that he has a TBI, or traumatic brain injury. At one point, she tells her husband to get out of the car so police don’t break the windows. She also tells him, “don’t do it,” but it’s not clear what she means.
As the encounter escalates, she repeatedly urges police, “You better not shoot him.”
After the gunshots, Scott can be seen lying face-down on the ground while his wife says, “He better live.” She continues recording and asks if an ambulance has been called. The officers stand over Scott. It’s unclear if they are checking him for weapons or attempting to give first aid.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said Friday that there is footage from at least one police body camera and one dashboard camera that shows the shooting. The family of Scott was shown that footage Thursday and demanded that police release it to the public.
Putney said Friday that releasing the footage of Scott’s death could inflame the situation. He has said previously that the video will be made public when he believes there is a “compelling reason” to do so.
“It’s a personal struggle, but I have to do what I think is best for my community,” Putney said.
During the same news conference, Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts said she believes the video should be released, but “the question is on the timing.”
On Saturday, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said in a news release that Putney would make a statement at 4:30 p.m. The release did not say that Putney would take questions.
Earlier Saturday, the president of the North Carolina NAACP said federal authorities had opened a probe into the shooting, but the U.S. Justice Department said later that it continues to monitor the local investigation into the shooting.
Charlotte is the latest U.S. city to be shaken by protests and recriminations over the death of a black man at the hands of police, a list that includes Baltimore, Milwaukee, Chicago, New York and Ferguson, Missouri.
Earlier in the week, the Charlotte protests turned violent, with demonstrators attacking reporters and others, setting fires and smashing windows of hotels, office buildings and restaurants.
Forty-four people were arrested after Wednesday’s protests, and one protester who was shot died at a hospital Thursday. City officials said police did not shoot 26-year-old Justin Carr. A suspect was arrested, but police provided few details.
On Thursday, protests were largely peaceful after National Guard members came to the city to help keep order and the mayor imposed a curfew.
On Friday, a choir from The Citadel Church in Greensboro stood a street corner singing spirituals for two hours, drawing a crowd of onlookers who were moved enough to clap along. The Rev. Gregory Drumwright directed the choir of approximately two dozen, saying they wanted to be “vessels of peace, vessels of righteousness, not rage.”