Charlotte, United States, Sep 23 – The family of the African American man whose death has triggered days of unrest in Charlotte, North Carolina has released dramatic video of the police shooting, raising pressure on authorities to make their own footage public.
Police have refused to release body-cam and dash-cam video of Tuesday’s shooting, which they say shows that Keith Lamont Scott posed a threat to officers.
His death is the latest in a string of police-involved killings of black men that have fueled outrage across America.
North Carolina’s governor declared a state of emergency in the southern US city after it was rocked by violence-marred protests.
Several hundred demonstrators were out again for a fourth night on Friday calling for the release of the videos amid a greater presence of National Guard troops, but the atmosphere was calmer than during previous days.
A curfew beginning at midnight (0400 GMT) went into effect for a second night, after protesters defied the order on Thursday.
Hundreds of demonstrators were also marching in the southern city of Atlanta in a protest calling for police reform organized by the NAACP, the black community’s main civil rights organization.
Charlotte’s case has also touched the US presidential race, with Mayor Jennifer Roberts asking both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to delay visits, citing “very stretched resources for security.”
Clinton tweeted that police should release the footage “without delay.”
President Barack Obama called for understanding as he celebrated the opening of the Smithsonian’s African American museum in Washington this weekend.
The museum “allows all of us as Americans to put our current circumstances in a historical context,” the first black US president said.
– The video –
Scott was shot and killed at a Charlotte apartment complex during an encounter with police searching for another person wanted for arrest.
Police say he had a handgun. His family says he was holding a book.
The two-minute smartphone footage filmed by Rakeyia Scott and released by her lawyers does not show the shooting itself — and does not conclusively answer the question of whether he was armed — but captures the moments surrounding it as she pleads with officers not to open fire.
It is also unclear whether police, a short distance away, could hear her speaking to them and to her husband during the altercation.
“Don’t shoot him, he has no weapon!” she is heard saying.
“He has a TBI, he’s not going to do anything to you guys,” she says, presumably referring to a traumatic brain injury.
Neighbors said Scott, 43, was disabled and had a stutter.
As Rakeyia Scott records, police are heard yelling “Drop the gun! Drop the gun!”
“Don’t let them break the windows. Come on out the car,” she shouts to her husband.
Four quick gunshots are heard, at which point the phone is pointing away from the shooting.
Moments later, Scott is seen lying face down surrounded by officers.
“Did you shoot him? Did you shoot him?” his wife screams.
– The police stance –
Scott’s family has viewed the police footage and is leading calls for it to be made public.
Roberts, the mayor, told reporters the video should eventually be released — but that doing so too soon could interfere with the probe by leading witnesses to change their accounts.
The police, too, say premature release of the video might interfere with a parallel state investigation.
“If I were to put it out indiscriminately and it doesn’t give you good context, it can inflame the situation,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney argued.
– ‘Stay strong’ –
Charlotte’s handling of the case contrasts sharply with a similar police shooting last week involving an African American man in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
There, the video was released and the white officer involved charged with first-degree manslaughter.
In Charlotte, the officer identified as having shot Scott is black.
No gun is visible in the police video, which shows Scott stepping backward when he was shot, according to a family lawyer.
“His hands are down by his side. He is acting calm,” the lawyer, Justin Bamberg, told CNN. “You do see something in his hand, but it’s impossible to make out from the video what it is.”
A still image circulated on the day of the shooting appeared to show a gun on the ground near Scott’s feet, but that image was taken after police tape was put up around the scene, while his wife’s cell phone video during the incident showed no such object.
Meanwhile protesters marched on the city’s police headquarters, demanding release of the official video. Although many blocked traffic on a nearby interstate highway, the demonstrations were mainly peaceful.
“The people tonight have expressed themselves in way that is positive beyond measure,” protest leader Marcus Bass said through a megaphone.
Cassandra Gould, a pastor from Ferguson, Missouri, where a black man was controversially killed in 2014 in an incident that triggered intense riots, addressed the crowd and urged protesters to keep pressuring the police department.
“Stay strong, stay disciplined, stay in the streets,” she said.
“Why should you go home if you just keep burying black bodies?”