It’s shaping up to be another extremely tense week in America between minority communities and the nation’s police force. As the whole country has been mindlessly arguing about Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem, two black men, Terence Crutcher and now, Keith Lamont Scott, have both been killed by police in what seems like unwarranted scenarios. The saddening news is a harsh reminder of the disparity between how police treat minorities, particularly black men, and has brought #BlackLivesMatter back to the forefront of discussion.
On Tuesday night in Charlotte, Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Brentley Vinson while exiting his vehicle at an apartment complex. According to the CMPD, Scott exited his vehicle while holding a handgun, and after refusing to follow police orders to drop the weapon, he was perceived as an imminent threat and was subsequently shot and killed. Although detectives claim to have found his weapon at the scene of the killing, Scott’s family maintains that he was not armed, and was instead holding a book while waiting for his son to get home from school.
At the time of the deadly shooting, which took place on Tuesday around 4 PM officers were at The Village at College Downs searching for a suspect who had an outstanding warrant, which is when they encountered Scott exiting his vehicle with what the claim to be a weapon. Officer Vinson, a black policeman, has been placed on paid administrative leave, as is standard procedure during an officer-involved shooting.
Though the investigation is still ongoing, the African-American community in Charlotte has been up in arms about the recent killing, and protests were raging throughout the night and into this morning. Around 8 PM, a large crowd of protestors gathered to voice their dismay for the earlier shooting. But, as the night went on and tensions heightened, the demonstration lead to a few non life-threatening injuries for both CMPD officers and protestors.
Later on that night, a number of protestors took over Interstate 85 to block traffic, and looted a cargo truck to set fire to its contents. Additionally, an attempted looting that took place at a local Walmart around 3:45 AM was also attributed to the demonstration. Fortunately, only a handful of civilians, protestors, and CMPD officers were injured, all of them non life-threatening, but the unruly and tense night has definitely left a desolate taste in the mouths of Charlotte residents.
This morning, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney stated that officers found a weapon in Scott’s possession, but no book. Additionally, Putney claimed that Officer Vinson wasn’t wearing a body camera. The press conference isn’t likely to quell tension in the community of Charlotte, as civil rights activists called for an economic boycott of Charlotte earlier today, claiming that “since our black lives don't matter, our black money shouldn't matter."
The only voice of reason that seems to have arisen thus far is from Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, who made the following statement this morning:
“Good morning, everyone. Before we begin today, I want to address the recent events in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, North Carolina. The Department of Justice is aware of, and we are assessing, the incident that led to the death of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte. We are in regular contact with local authorities as their investigation into the shooting begins to unfold. And on Monday, the Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation into the death of Terrence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As always, the Justice Department will be thorough, impartial and exhaustive in reaching a determination about this incident.
These tragic incidents have once again left Americans with feelings of sorrow, anger and uncertainty. They have once again highlighted – in the most vivid and painful terms – the real divisions that still persist in this nation between law enforcement and communities of color. And in Charlotte, they have once again led to widespread protest. Unfortunately, we saw several instances of violence during the protests and 12 police officers and a number of demonstrators were injured as a result. Protest is protected by our Constitution and is a vital instrument for raising issues and creating change. But when it turns violent, it undermines the very justice that it seeks to achieve and I urge those demonstrating in Charlotte to remain peaceful in their expressions of protest and concern.
At the Department of Justice, we are working tirelessly to build trust between law enforcement officers and the communities we serve and we will continue to do so. We will continue to forge dialogue between citizens and police officers. We will continue to do everything we can to give the brave men and women who wear the badge the tools and training they need to do their jobs safely, effectively and fairly. And we will continue to protect the rights and liberties of every American – no matter who they are, what they look like, or what uniform they wear.”
With an investigation still underway and most of the facts unknown, we can only hope the swift and fair justice will come from the shooting of both Keith Lamont Scott and Terence Crutcher.