Charlotte marchers demand police release shooting tapes

September 21, 2016 8:36 AM EDT

Twelve year old Jeremiah Haskins walks past the apartment where Keith Scott lived the morning after protests against the police shooting of Scott, in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Miczek


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By Robert MacMillan and Mike Blake

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Reuters) - About 300 protesters took to the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina, in a fourth night of demonstrations on Friday, calling on authorities to "release the tapes" of the fatal police shooting of a black man, hours after his family released its own video.

Protesters gathered after nightfall in a small park and others chalked the names of police shooting victims from across the country on a street, but there was no sign of the violence that marked demonstrations earlier in the week.

Protesters marched under the eye of armed National Guard troops, chanting "Resist the police" along with calls for videos of Tuesday's shooting of Keith Scott, a 43-year-old father of seven, to be made public.

Charlotte police have claimed that Scott was armed with a gun, which the family has denied.

Police officers and protesters, both on bicycles, led the way through streets closed to traffic. Marchers briefly entered an interstate highway running through the city but quickly returned to the local streets.

The two-minute video recorded by Scott's wife, Rakeyia, includes audio of her pleading with officers to hold fire as they confront Scott in a parked car outside a Charlotte apartment complex.

"Don't shoot him! He has no weapon," she can be heard telling officers as they yell at Scott, "Drop the gun!"

Scott's death was the latest in a string of police killings of black men in America, which have unleashed protests and riots across the country and led to international criticism of the United States' treatment of minorities.

Over the last two years, protesters have filled streets from Milwaukee to Minneapolis, from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore. Protesters have also taken to the streets in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where police officers were shot and killed by gunmen who claimed to be avenging the deaths of black men unjustly slain by law enforcement.

In the Charlotte video, released by the family to U.S. media outlets, Scott's wife can be heard shouting "Keith, Keith, don't do it," although it is not clear whether she is directing her comments to her husband or police. The footage captures the sound of four shots but does not show Scott being hit. It is also not clear from the footage whether he is in possession of a gun.

Scott's wife in the video also tells police that her husband had a TBI, or traumatic brain injury, and had just taken "his medicine." It was not clear from the video whether police heard the wife nor the nature of any injury Scott may have sustained.

CNN quoted a source close to the Charlotte investigation as saying that a loaded gun had been recovered at the scene of the crime and that fingerprints, DNA and blood on it matched Scott's.

Reuters was unable to confirm the report and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department did not immediately respond to queries on it.

VIDEO FOOTAGE NO "PANACEA"

Along with Scott's family, protesters have dismissed the police claim that Scott had a gun and have called on authorities to release video taken by law enforcement to shed light on the controversy.

The family initially contended that Scott was carrying a book, but after viewing the police video on Thursday, the family said it was "impossible to discern" what, if anything, Scott was carrying.

"There's nothing in that video that shows him acting aggressively, threatening or maybe dangerous," Justin Bamberg, one of the lawyers representing the family, said in an interview early on Friday.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts on Friday also called for release of the police videos. "I do think it would help in terms of transparency to release that footage," she said in an interview with CNN. Roberts has seen two police videos as well as the family one. "All three videos I've seen are inconclusive," she said on CNN.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney has said that video taken by police body cameras supported the police version of events but was not a "panacea". He told reporters on Friday that releasing the footage now could harm the investigation, which the state is leading.

Putney said that he would eventually agree with the release of the video. "It's a matter of when and a matter of sequence."

State police in a statement on Friday said that local police had the legal authority to release the tapes.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton added her voice to calls for release "without delay" of the video. "We must ensure justice and work to bridge divides," she said on Twitter on Friday.

Clinton initially announced plans earlier on Friday to go to Charlotte on Sunday. After Mayor Roberts publicly asked her to delay the trip, given demands on Charlotte's resources, Clinton postponed the trip by a week to Oct. 1.

The demonstrations in Charlotte spread to Atlanta on Friday night, with about 250 protesters taking to the streets of downtown Atlanta, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

(Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan in Charlotte, Tom Miles in Geneva, Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and Laila Kearney in New York; Writing by Scott Malone and Peter Henderson; Editing by Toni Reinhold and Leslie Adler)



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