As protesters continue to demand justice on the streets of Charlotte, major questions have been raised about the identities of the people who shot both Keith Lamont Scott and an unidentified protester who is reportedly now on life support.
Scott, a 43-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by an officer with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD). The department identified the shooter as Officer Brentley Vinson, who is Black. Vinson’s race has been repeated by Charlotte police chief Kerr Putney, cable news networks and many Twitter users, seemingly with the aim of showing that the shooting was neither racially motivated nor indicative of a systemic issue of police violence being waged on Black bodies living in America.
But a Charlotte resident named Taheshia Williams said that she was there when Scott was killed, and that the officer was White. “It was not a Black officer that killed him; it was a White officer that killed him. He was bald-headed. The Black officer came on the scene maybe 15, 10,15 minutes later. And he was the one doing the CPR on him.”
Williams said that Scott was had a book, not a gun, as police officers reported. Scott’s family members also said he was reading at the time of the shooting. Per CNN, police officials say they did not recover a book at the scene, but did find a handgun.
“He got out of that car with a book,” Williams says in the video below, shot by Al-Jazeera. “I have to say what I believe, that it’s a cover-up. They made a mistake and they’re doing their best to make sure they cover up that mistake.”
During a press conference this morning (September 22), Chief Putney said that Scott’s family will watch police video of the shooting today (September 22), but it will not be released to the public, per department policy. While the department says Vinson was not wearing a body camera—he was reportedly in plainclothes and a CMPD vest—Putney says other uniformed officers were wearing the cameras. During his remarks at the press gathering (which you can see below, courtesy of USA Today), he also revealed that the video he saw did not conclusively show that Scott pointed a weapon at the officers:
The video does not give me absolute, definitive visual evidence that would confirm that a person is pointing a gun. I did not see that in the videos that I’ve reviewed. What i can tell you though, is when taken in the totality of all the other evidence, it supports what we’ve heard and the version of the truth that we gave about the circumstances that happened that led to the death of Mr. Scott.
Now there has been another shooting in Charlotte—one that many say should also be attributed to the CMPD. During last night’s (September 21) round of protests, which resulted in North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory declaring a state of emergency in the city at 11 p.m. ET at the request of the mayor and police chief, an as yet unidentified protester was shot. Per Chief Putney’s comments early today, officers used tear gas on the crowd following the shooting.
Immediately after the incident, the city tweeted that the protester was shot by another civilian (then tweeted again to say the person was still alive, but on life support):
ALERT: Fatal shot uptown was civilian on civilian. @CMPD did not fire shot.
— City of Charlotte (@CLTgov) September 22, 2016
CORRECTION UPDATE: Civilian who suffered gunshot wound during protests is on life support, critical condition. Not deceased.
— City of Charlotte (@CLTgov) September 22, 2016
But a group of clergy members who were on site during the shooting say that the shot was fired by a CMPD officer. “I saw the man go down on the pavement,” Minister Steve Knight of Missiongathering Christian Church in Charlotte said in a statement emailed to Colorlines. “It was an ambush. The victim was shot while he stood between two ministers, and we believe he was shot by police. We would like to see surveillance video from the surrounding area that may have captured the shooting to determine who was responsible for the deadly shooting.”
Charlotte-based organizer Gloria Merriweather showed The Associated Press a video she shot of the man who is now on life support. “We were walking by. The SWAT was on the other side, and they started shooting bullets at us and throwing tear gas and this guy got hit. And they won’t let us move him. He got hit in the head,” she said. “The whole reason we had to protest was becoming somebody was shot unarmed. Another unarmed person is shot today. It makes me sick. It doesn’t have to be like this.” See her interview below.
Other witnesses posted similar accounts of the shooting on social media:
Countless eyewitness reports coming out of Charlotte stating that police shot and killed the protestor last night. #CharlotteUprising pic.twitter.com/Bqfvdg19TA
— Urban Cusp Magazine (@UrbanCusp) September 22, 2016
Here’s another eyewitness account to last night’s shooting in Charlotte … pic.twitter.com/EUwArpCtEz
— Davey D (@mrdaveyd) September 22, 2016
Putney addressed those concerns at today’s press conference, saying: “There’s a lot of information about who did that shooting. We’re reviewing video and we’re assessing our people who were there as well, because an allegation was made that one of our officers might have been involved. As I said before guys, we’re here to seek the truth. So we’re investigating that to find the truth, the absolute truth, as best the evidence can show us.”
At the request of Scott’s family, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation has opened an investigation into Scott’s death, according to The Charlotte Observer. The shooting is also being investigated by CMPD and the agency’s internal affairs department.