With both a state of emergency implemented and the national guard deployed in Charlotte overnight following a second night of rioting, there was hope the mood in the city tonight would be less violent. That however, may prove optimistic now that the Charlotte police announced they do not plan - for now - to release a video showing the fatal shooting of Keith Scott by officers, and which that has sparked two nights of violent protests in North Carolina's largest city, the department's chief said on Thursday.
The video will only be shown to the family of Keith Scott, 43, who was shot dead by a black police officer in the parking lot of an apartment complex on Tuesday afternoon, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said.
The reason the video is relevant is because many of the protesters dispute the official account of Scott's death. Police contend he was carrying a gun when he approached officers and ignored repeated orders to drop it. His family and a witness say he was holding a book, not a firearm, when he was killed. "I'm not going to release the video right now," Putney told reporters, the morning after nine people were injured and 44 arrested in riots over Scott's killing.
As Reuters notes, Charlotte's reluctance to release the video stands in contrast to Oklahoma, where officials on Monday released footage of the fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher by police after his vehicle broke down on a highway. That shooting is now the subject of a U.S. Department of Justice probe.
One potential reason for the unwillingness to play the video is that according to Putney, while the video supports the police account of what happened, it "does not definitively show Scott pointing a gun at officers."
As such, presenting the video would likely lead to further protests, state of emergency notwithstanding, and may have boiled over into violence and looting for yet another night.
Meanwhile, the local population is not taking any chances. As AP reported, a North Carolina gun-rights group says just because there's a state of emergency in Charlotte doesn't mean people there are unable to carry their concealed handgun for defense if they have a permit for one. Grass Roots North Carolina President Paul Valone wrote Thursday in a memo to its supporters strongly advising them to carry these lawful firearms if they can't avoid being in Charlotte and surrounding Mecklenburg County.
Valone points to a 2012 federal court ruling striking down a broad state law making it a misdemeanor for people to possess or transport any dangerous weapon outside of their homes within an area where a state of emergency exists. Grass Roots was a plaintiff in the litigation. Grass Roots counts 20,000 people among its members.
And while we doubt Grass Roots' plea for people to arm themselves was the catalyst, one implication of the surge in violence is that guns in Charlotte are selling out. As The Washington Examiner reports, the spike in social tension has led to a gun buying spree by locals worried about their safety.
At Hyatt Guns, one of the nation's largest, staff arrived Thursday morning after the second night of riots and encountered a line of buyers.
"First off, our prayers are with law enforcement this morning. People are afraid. They see lunacy in the streets being perpetrated by criminals and they are gearing up to protect themselves," Justin Anderson, director of marketing for Hyatt Guns told Secrets. He added that sales of self defense weapons has been swift this week, both in person and online.
"Sales last night were brisk. Most of the purchases were self defense shotguns and 12 gauge buckshot," he said. "We had people waiting at the door this morning who are looking at similar guns. People that were on the fence about buying a gun prior to last night are now making that purchase," added Anderson.
The store is not far from the downtown violence, but has regular security and is so popular among local police that it recently set up an online store for police. Which is why if one finds themselves in the middle of downtown Charlotte and things are going from bad to worse again, this may well be the safest spot in town tonight.