Violent protesters rampaged through parts of downtown Charlotte as anger continued to build over the deadly police shooting of an African American man.
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency Wednesday night in the state’s largest city and called in the National Guard after Charlotte’s police chief said he needed the help.
A peaceful 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 in Charlotte’s downtown area.
City officials maintained police did not shoot the man.
On Wednesday, hundreds of protesters who were shouting “black lives matter” and “hands up, don’t shoot” after police fired flash grenades and tear gas after the shooting.
But several groups of a dozen or more protesters stayed behind, attacking people, including reporters, shattering windows to hotels, office buildings and restaurants and setting small fires.
At one point, television news helicopters showed protesters on the loop highway around downtown, trying to stop cars for several minutes before police arrived.
“My heart bleeds for what our great city is going through,” McCrory said on WBTV-TV.
Authorities said three people and four police officers were injured.
The violence happened amid questions about what happened Tuesday afternoon when 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed in the parking lot of his condominium complex.
Police did not release dashboard or body camera footage, but said Scott had a gun and refused several orders to drop his weapon. Scott’s family and neighbours said he was holding a book.
“He got out of his car, he walked back to comply, and all his compliance did was get him murdered,” said Taheshia Williams, whose balcony overlooks the shady parking spot where Scott was Tuesday afternoon.
Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney was angered by the stories on social media, especially a profanity-laced, hour-long video on Facebook, where a woman identifying herself as Scott’s daughter screamed “My daddy is dead!” at officers at the shooting scene and repeating that he was only holding a book.
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,” Putney said.
Not long after the Facebook video was posted Tuesday night, the first night of destructive protests began near the shooting scene, about 15 miles northeast of downtown Charlotte.
Dozens of demonstrators threw rocks at police and reporters, damaged squad cars, closed part of Interstate 85, and looted a stopped truck and set a fire. Authorities used tear gas to break up the protests.
The distrust of police continued after Wednesday’s shooting of a protester. Many demonstrators didn’t believe officers weren’t the ones who shot the protester.
“We protesting. Why the hell would we target each other?” Dino Davis said.
“They say it was the tear gas, and it looked like one the tear gas exploded. But I think it was a rubber bullet because some of those rubber bullets can penetrate.”
Calls for police to release the video increased. North Carolina has a law that takes effect October 1 requiring a judge to approve releasing police video, and Putney said he doesn’t release video when a criminal investigation is ongoing.
After about four hours, the violence began winding down. Hotel employees and security guards immediately started cleaning up broken glass.
Bank of America told its thousands of employees working in its 60-story skyscraper to stay home Thursday.