Protests — and worse — continued last night in Charlotte in response to the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott on Tuesday. Demonstrators ignored a midnight curfew but had largely dispersed by 2 AM this morning, demanding more transparency and especially the release of the video taken of the shooting itself. Family members who saw it claim it raised more questions, and the chief of police declined to provide the video to allow others to see if it provided answers.
“Transparency is in the eye of the beholder,” Chief Kerr Putney responded:
On Thursday, Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney said officials had no plans to release video of the shooting, despite calls from civic leaders for more transparency.
“Release the tape! Release the tape!” a crowd of protesters chanted as they left a Charlotte park on Thursday evening and wound through the city’s streets as officers with bikes looked on. National Guard Humvees rumbled down streets still littered with broken glass, passing through areas where businesses remained closed and many people stayed home because of the chaos.
Putney’s parsing of the word “transparency” won’t win him much credibility with the protesters, but it does raise another question. Did the family request that the video be withheld? Putney suggests that he’s withholding the clip because he’s honoring the request of those associated with the “victim” of the shooting. As of yesterday, though, the Scott family demanded its release:
The family of Keith Lamont Scott, who was shot to death by an officer on Tuesday, saw two police videos of the shooting that raised “more questions than answers,” attorney Justin Bamberg said in a statement Thursday evening.
“As a matter of the greater good and transparency, the family asks that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department publicly, immediately release both of the videos they watched today,” Bamberg said.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said earlier Thursday he had no plans to release police footage of Scott’s killing publicly without what he determines is a “compelling reason.”
The family’s attorney describes the video and admits that it shows an “object” in Scott’s hand, but that even if it was a firearm, Scott appeared to be complying and non-aggressive when he was shot:
This cuts both ways. We know from pictures of the scene provided by one of the family members that a gun was laying on the ground immediately after the shooting, and the family attorney concedes that the man had an “object” in his hand. That certainly represents a step outside the “it was a book” narrative that erupted in the minutes after the shooting. Yet the family still wants the video published. Why? And why does the chief of police want it kept under wraps? It’s a curious standoff, and one that isn’t going to help soothe the streets of Charlotte.
Here’s what might do the trick, though. Washington Post reporter Cleve Wootson took live video of a standoff near police headquarters between dozens of angry protesters and a police officer. Retired Charlotte-Mecklenburg PD detective Gary McFadden, the star of I Am Homicide on Investigation Discovery channel, came out to engage the crowd and to try to bride the gap. As Wootson notes, McFadden is a local legendary figure, and perhaps the kind of leadership the city can use to bridge the gaps opened up in the community. It’s a great piece of reporting by Wootson and worth watching.