Police Chief: Charlotte man was armed when officers fired; activist calls for boycott

After an night of sometimes violent protests following a fatal police shooting Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney speaks during at a morning press conference at the government Center in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. Putney says officers gave a black man clear, multiple warnings to drop a handgun before fatally shooting him. (John D. Simmons/The Charlotte Observer via AP)

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Chief of Police Kerr Putney said Keith Lamont Scott was armed when officers fired and killed him Tuesday -- setting off protests that devolved into violence.

Putney and other city officials urged for peace Wednesday morning after a night of unrest that saw 16 police officers injured, one man arrested, an interstate shut down and a number of police cars vandalized.

“We’re calling for calm. We’re calling for dialogue," Mayor Jennifer Roberts said.

Rev. B.J. Murphy, speaking on behalf of Scott's family and other black men killed by police, called for a boycott in the wake of the shooting.

“Keep your money in your pocket. Let everybody feel the pain economically of what we feel when you killing us," Murphy said. “We don’t got nothing to lose. We are offended. We can’t get no justice. There’s no sympathy on social media, on the radio on television – nobody wants to feel our pain.”

A group of faith leaders painted a different portrait of Scott, of a man who everyday waited for his son in the parking lot where he was shot Tuesday.

“They said he had a gun. Somebody said he had a book. We need to do our own independent investigation," Murphy said.

Together, the speakers touched what they called a pattern of inequality in policing black communities.

“We’re watching modern day lynching on television," Murphy continued. “Everybody on Charlotte should be on notice. … We’re tired of being killed and nobody saying nothing. We want justice.”

A Scott family representative did not speak at the press conference.

John C. Barnett, national civil rights activist , said police needed to be more transparent to begin rebuilding trust.

“They need to be very transparent. They need to be able to inform us exactly what’s going on," he said.

So far, he added, that has not been the case.

Police officers went looking for Scott at about 4 p.m. Tuesday,

The police chief said officers were serving arrest warrants on another person when they saw Scott get out of a vehicle with a handgun. A black plainclothes officer in 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.

“In spite of the verbal commands ... he stepped out posing a threat to the officers and officer Brently Vinson fired his weapons striking the subject," Putney said.

Scott died a short time later.

Vinson, who is also an African American man, wasn't wearing a body camera.

Vinson was placed on administrative leave pending the investigation, which is standard procedure. Putney said a gun was recovered at the scene. He added "many witnesses" corroborated the police officers' version of the story. He was unsure if Scott directly pointed the gun at police. Putney also pointed out that a book was not recovered in the car, despite assertions from witnesses that Scott was sitting in his car reading. A family member said Scott wasn't armed.

Protests began at 7 p.m. with some questioning how a man suspected of bombing a New York City neighborhood could be brought in alive, but a black man in North Carolina could not.

“About an hour later we saw the protesters, demonstrators – which is legal – become aggressive agitators," Putney continued.

By 9 p.m. the so-called "agitators" shutdown Interstate 85. Police called in reinforcements to quell the crowd. Putney said demonstrators began throwing rocks at police before damaging police cars at about 2 a.m. They started setting cars on fire, Putney said. Officers had to use gas to disperse the crowd.

“Our officers, acting heroically, were just trying to deescalate the situation safely," Putney said. “Now we have a challenge. People are watching how we respond, how we react. I’m optimistic the results of our action will be positive. It's time for the voice-less majority to stand up and be heard. ... I can tell you the story is different from what has been portrayed especially on social media."

His comments were an apparent reference to a profanity-laced, hourlong video that a woman claiming to be Scott's daughter posted to Facebook soon after the shooting, saying that her father had an unspecified disability and was unarmed. In it, she appears to be at the shooting scene, which is surrounded by yellow police tape, as she yells at officers.

The woman did not respond to Facebook messages, and her claims could not immediately be verified by The Associated Press. It also was not clear if she witnessed the shooting.

Roberts said she has been in touch with the White House about the events unfolding in Charlotte.


National online news producer Nick DiMarco reported from Washington, DC. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect how police came across Keith Scott, according to the Associated Press.