Posted: September 26th, 2016 | By: Valerie Bauerlein
Professor Kami Chavis, Director of the Criminal Justice Program, was quoted in the following Wall Street Journal article, “Police Videos Fail to Quiet Protests in Charlotte,” published by Valerie Bauerlein on Sept. 25, 2016.
CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Prayer vigils and protests continued here Sunday, as civil-rights advocates expressed unease with recently released police videos that they said gave no clear justification for last week’s fatal shooting of Keith Scott.
The city has been in turmoil since Tuesday, when a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer fatally shot Mr. Scott, a 43-year-old black man, in the parking lot of his apartment complex. Law-enforcement officials maintained a significant presence in downtown Charlotte on Sunday, though the city’s website said Sunday evening that a midnight-to-6 a.m. curfew had been lifted.
About 60 people have been arrested during protests for looting, failure to disperse and other charges, police said. One person was fatally shot during a Wednesday protest and a man has been charged in his death, police said.
Security for Sunday’s Carolina Panthers home football game was tight. The downtown stadium is a few blocks from the epicenter of protests, and alongside the interstate where demonstrators have occasionally blocked traffic. There were protests outside the stadium, but no major incidents or arrests were reported in connection with the game, which the Panthers lost to the Minnesota Vikings.
After days of pressure, Police Chief Kerr Putney on late Saturday released body-cam and dash-cam video footage of the fatal encounter with Mr. Scott, as well as official photographs of a gun, an ankle holster and a marijuana cigarette that police said belonged to him.
The videos were inconclusive on their own, but alongside witness statements and the photographs give “indisputable evidence” that police acted appropriately, the chief said. Mr. Scott posed a threat to public safety as he was holding marijuana and a gun, and repeatedly ignoring commands to drop his weapon, the chief said.
But the Scott family said the police videos didn’t show Mr. Scott posing a threat. Many people who watched the police videos, and a cellphone video taken by Mr. Scott’s wife, said they didn’t know what to think because they didn’t see a gun in Mr. Scott’s hand.
“The videos don’t really show what we would like, evidence one way or the other,” said Shomari White, pastor of Charlotte’s nondenominational Have Life Church. “If he raised a weapon at the police, then they acted appropriately. If he didn’t, then they acted inappropriately, and the pain of it is we just don’t know.”
Mr. White was among several pastors hosting a prayer meeting at a downtown park Sunday night, with plans to seek out some of the protesters, specifically young black men. “They are hurting, they are concerned, they are afraid,” Mr. White said. “When you put someone under pressure for a long period of time, eventually it will erupt.”
The congregation at Charlotte’s Central Church of God prayed for all involved, including Officer Brentley Vinson, a church member and a black police officer who police said shot Mr. Scott. Pastor Loran Livingston said Officer Vinson “did his sworn duty” and is a fine man, according to a recording of the service on the church’s website.
The investigation into the fatal police shooting of Mr. Scott is in the hands of the State Bureau of Investigation. Chief Putney said he has no plans to recommend charges against any of his officers, based on his department’s own investigation.
Kami Chavis, a former assistant U.S. attorney who directs the criminal-justice program at Wake Forest University School of Law in Winston-Salem, N.C., said she hopes the recent protests in Charlotte and other cities will prompt new police training programs and, potentially, far less frequent use of lethal force. “We’re going to see more public outcry until we have a cultural shift in the tactics that some law enforcement agencies use,” she said.