A Timeline: The Police Response to Charlotte Protests

A Timeline: The Police Response to Charlotte Protests

Last week was difficult for police departments across the country as people reacted to officer-involved shootings in Oklahoma and North Carolina. While those upset with the shooting in Tulsa, Oklahoma attended vigils and peacefully exercised their rights to protest the death of Terence Crutcher, protesters in Charlotte, North Carolina became violent following the death of Keith Scott.

On Sept. 20, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers were attempting to find a suspect with a warrant out for arrest when they came across Scott. Police and witnesses say Scott was shot by an officer after he exited his vehicle with a weapon. Scott’s family does not believe that he owns a weapon and said that he often waited in his car, reading a book, while he waited for one of his seven children to finish school.

Backlash was quick and fast and was spread around the Charlotte community after Scott’s daughter broadcasted the scene from Facebook Live. She also gave a statement on Facebook expressing her frustrations and grief of her father’s death.

Family members and faith leaders from around the community went to the place of the shooting to peacefully protest the death of Scott that afternoon, but as the sun went down others joined the demonstration and things turned violent.

CMPD outfitted themselves in riot gear and dispersed tear gas as the crowds grew larger and protesters began flipping trashcans upside down and setting their contents on fire. 16 police officers were injured that night as rocks and debris were thrown at them by protesters. Windows were shattered and graffiti covered windows and walls of uptown Charlotte with, “Black Lives Matter.”

The next morning, CMPD and the mayor of Charlotte, Jennifer Roberts gave a press conference stressing their extreme disappointment in the violence that occurred. Roberts said there would be no tolerance for the kind of demonstrations they saw on Tuesday night, but that did not stop protesters from showing up for a second night in a row. This time, they were even more upset.

Protests on Wednesday where peaceful during the day, just like the day before. But again, as night fell, the unrest turned violent. Stores in the Charlotte area were looted, ATM machines destroyed and stolen from and a hotel had to go into lockdown when protesters began throwing rocks through the windows of the lobby.

Police attempted to break up crowds with tear gas and convince protesters to go home, but protesters lingered creating more damage to North Carolina’s largest city. Soon there were reports that a civilian had been shot by another civilian in the head. Protesters swarmed around the scene of the shooting as police tried to get the person to the hospital where the victim was placed on life-support.  On Sept. 22, police confirmed the victim had died.

By 9:30 p.m., following the shooting, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency. He began to deploy the National Guard and State Highway patrol to assist local law enforcement.

On Thursday, CMPD police Chief Kerr Putney led a press conference stating 44 protesters had been arrested during the demonstrations the night before. A total of four officers had been injured and 9 civilian victims were injured as well.

Chief Putney told the press he had devised a plan that included the use of the National Guard and State Highway Patrol. He said they would be patrolling the buildings in downtown Charlotte, keeping the demonstrators from creating any more damage, while CMPD focused on the protests.

Early Thursday night, Mayor Roberts put into effect a curfew from midnight to 6 a.m. ahead of the third night of protests. The curfew will be in effect until the state of emergency is over.

The collaboration between the National Guard, State Highway Patrol and CMPD proved to be successful, as the third night of protests came to an end with minimal property damage, very few injuries and arrests. The curfew was not enforced as the protests were peaceful and lasted until the early morning hours. The protesters marched throughout the city, briefly blocking a highway, before moving returning to the streets of uptown Charlotte. CMPD made it a priority to keep the march moving, not lingering in one spot too long, as that is usually when the violence begins. Bicycle officers were deployed to the areas of the march and rode beside the protesters throughout the night.

CMPD Chief Putney said at a press conference Friday morning that the Charlotte- Mecklenburg Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center a huge help throughout the protests. The Crime Center, which was activated on all three nights of the protests, has access to roughly 1,000 cameras throughout the city.

The crime center was able to help police find footage of instances of crime throughout the protest, for example, the shooting that happened on night two. Police were able to identify Rayquan Borum as the shooter. He was arrested and charged with the death of Justin Carr on Friday morning.

Others were identified for their roles in the damage and looting of the uptown buildings in Charlotte.

During the Friday press conference, Chief Putney confirmed that the officer-involved shooting of Scott will be investigated by the State Bureau of Investigation. All evidence and future updates will be handed over the SBI, including the decision to release dash cam footage of the shooting.

Chief Putney told press that he was not in favor of releasing the video while the protests were still violent, stating that the video did not show definitive proof that Scott was holding a gun when he was shot. He believed if the video was released to the public, the protests could get worse.

The police response to the Charlotte Protests can be argued two different ways. Either you believe that the CMPD’s response was appropriate to the situation and they did everything they could, or you believe that the CMPD as well as the local government failed Charlotte in a way by taking over 48 hours to calm violent protesters.

Which side would you argue? Send me a tweet with your answer at @SecProdsSydny.  

Posted by Sydny Shepard on Sep 27, 2016

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