The protest over the shooting death of Keith Scott was relatively peaceful last Wednesday in Charlotte, North Carolina until one of the protesters, Justin Carr, was shot in the head. Then the crowd became angry and started throwing objects and breaking windows. Justin Carr died in the hospital form his injuries a day later.
From the moment Carr was shot, many protesters assumed or believed he had been killed by police who were there in riot gear. Buzzfeed News published a report the next morning which cited eyewitnesses who claimed police were responsible for Carr’s death:
At least two people at Wednesday night’s protest in Charlotte told BuzzFeed News that they witnessed police shoot rubber bullets into the crowd, one of which hit and killed a protester…
James Tyson, 31, told BuzzFeed News he helped care for the man when he was shot. “Not only did I never hear a gunshot, I never saw a gun,” he said. “I saw [police] shooting rubber bullets, I saw him go down. I witnessed the wound. I was two feet from his face.”
Buzzfeed also cited a Facebook post by Todd Zimmer who wrote, “I was there when CMPD shot a protestor in the head tonight. I am convinced that police shot this person with a rubber bullet or a tear gas canister.” At the end of the story Buzzfeed does mention a conflicting account by a Daily Beast reporter who said Carr was shot by “a civilian” but the thrust of the story is that police may be responsible.
A day later The Root published an interview with James Tyson who once again described rushing to assist Carr after he was shot. By the time the interview had been published Charlotte police had already arrested a suspect, 21-year-old Rayquan Borum, but Tyson told the Root, “I know they arrested a man, but I believe that the city is lying.” He added, “I believe that the riot police were lying because they know they shot him.”
And that seems to be a relatively common belief, at least among the protest organizers. Yesterday a group calling itself Charlotte Uprising held a press conference calling for the Mayor of Charlotte and the police chief to resign. From the Charlotte Observer:
Jose Mujica, a student and organizer, accused police of shooting Carr and framing another black man. The shooting occurred after an angry crowd surrounded police clad in riot gear, who fired tear gas and possibly other projectiles. Mujica, who was near the shooting, acknowledged that the scene was chaotic and he did not actually see any officer fire at Carr, but said many participants believe the shot came from the police.
So that’s pretty much how this process often works. None of these people actually saw what happened but they feel like the police did something wrong. Meanwhile, the justice system keeps churning and today there is another story in the Charlotte Observer titled, “Man admits to shooting bystander at Charlotte protests, prosecutor says“:
The Charlotte man accused of killing a protester Wednesday during a crowded march in uptown has admitted to the shooting, Assistant District Attorney Clayton Jones said in court Monday.
Police say Rayquan Borum, 21, shot and killed Justin Carr, 26, during the second night of Charlotte protests that erupted over the police killing of Keith Scott on Tuesday outside an apartment in the University City area.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about this case, including the motive, and Borum hasn’t been proven guilty in a court. So this admission, while significant, is not the end of the story. Still, it is looking more and more likely that the police have the man responsible for the death of Justin Carr.
And this points to an ongoing problem with the Black Lives Matter movement which often runs with early media reports before all the facts are gathered. Michael Brown was not murdered by a racist cop while surrendering with his hands up. Most people know that now, though I suspect there are still plenty of people who believe the false story spread by the media. Similarly, Sandra Bland was not murdered by racists cops while in her jail cell, though many protesters still talk as if she was. And she was not already dead when her booking photo was taken, as some claimed at the time.
None of this means that all police shootings are justified or that some aren’t the result of real police misconduct. The female officer who shot a man in Tulsa earlier this month has been charged with first-degree manslaughter. It just means that BLM protesters don’t devote nearly as much energy to getting the facts straight as they do to stoking outrage and demanding resignations. That should give the rest of us, of every race and background, reason to pause before taking those early, outrage-inducing media reports as gospel. Fairly often in these high profile cases, those reports turn out to be wrong.