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Charlotte police shooting: Protests largely peaceful past midnight curfew

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Protesters marched in Charlotte for a third night over the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott — remaining largely peaceful on the streets past a midnight curfew.

Mayor Jennifer Roberts announced the curfew Thursday to curb the violence that rocked the city the previous two nights.

One man died after police said he was shot by a civilian during Wednesday’s protest.

After a chaotic two nights that turned into a riots, with people smashing windows and looting storefronts, the protests early Friday appeared mellow in comparison.

Some protesters hugged National Guard members, shook their hands or took pictures with them.

Antonique Alexander went a step further, pinning a flower on a police officer’s lapel.

“I drove back to support my city. My city needed me,” said Alexander, 21, a senior at UNC Greensboro. “I hope to get some kind of answer” about what happened to Scott.

Protesters disperse

Shortly after midnight Friday, some demonstrators dispersed on their own even though authorities did not move in. Police said they had no plans to enforce it if the protests remain peaceful.

“It’s just not been necessary,” said Capt. Mike Campagna of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

“It’s been a very peaceful group tonight. There’s been a lot of people inside the group helping to make that happen … The curfew is there, we can use it as a tool if necessary if things go sideways and hopefully that just won’t be the case.”

Officers injured

Police first said there were no reports of injuries to officers or civilians during Thursday night’s protest, but later said two officers were treated after protesters sprayed them with a chemical agent. It was unclear what agent was used.

While mostly peaceful, throngs of protesters expressed their outrage over Scott’s death by circling the police department and the city jail.

They raised their hands to signify “don’t shoot” and laid down on the ground as if they’d been shot.

What the video shows

Scott’s family has said he was reading a book when police officers approached his vehicle and shot him Tuesday.

But Charlotte-Mecklenberg police Chief Kerr Putney said Scott was armed and no book was found at the scene.

Scott’s family watched two police videos of the confrontation, and said they couldn’t tell what was in his hands when he was fatally shot.

The family wants police to immediately release the videos to the public, according to their attorney Justin Bamberg.

Putney had told reporters earlier Thursday that he has no plans to release the video because he doesn’t want to jeopardize the investigation.

The withholding of the video, which protesters are perceiving as a lack of transparency, has fueled widespread anger in Charlotte.

“Transparency’s in the eye of the beholder,” Putney said. “If you think we should display a victim’s worst day for public consumption, that is not the transparency I’m speaking of.”

Putney later told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer the decision wouldn’t be his to make much longer anyway, as the investigation is being turned over to North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation.

No ‘definitive visual evidence’

The video does not provide “definitive visual evidence” that Scott pointed a gun at police officers, including Brentley Vinson, who shot him, the police chief said.

But other evidence and witness accounts support the police narrative that officers opened fire only after Scott refused to drop his weapon, he said.

The family says the video shows Scott acting calmly and nonaggressively on Tuesday, the day he was shot.

“When he was shot and killed, Mr. Scott’s hands were by his side and he was slowly walking backward,” the family attorney said.

Scott didn’t own a gun or habitually carry a gun, Bamberg said.

Mayor Jennifer Roberts also watched the videos.

“It is not a very clear picture, and the gun in question is a small gun and it was not easy to see with the way the motion was happening,” she told Anderson Cooper 360.

The mayor said she is leaning toward releasing the footage to the public, but must remain mindful of the ongoing investigations.

Todd Walther, spokesman for the Charlotte Fraternal Order of Police, told CNN that he viewed the footage, and it demonstrated Scott was “an obvious threat” to police officers. He said Scott can be seen with a gun and ankle holster in the video.

Scott was in a vehicle when police arrived to serve a warrant on another man at an apartment complex, he said. Some of the officers were not in uniform, but had vests or jackets that said “police” on the front and back, Walther said.

Scott was given “clear commands to drop the weapon — and he did not do that,” Walther said.

Fears of violent protests

After two days of violent protests, residents were uneasy Thursday after a state of emergency went into effect and National Guard troops arrived.

National Guard troops were protecting buildings and infrastructure so the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police can focus on crowd control, officials said.

The mayor had signed an order enacting a curfew at midnight until 6 a.m. ET.

North Carolina law

North Carolina recently passed a law that blocks the release of police recordings from body or dashboard cameras with limited exceptions. That law is set to take effect in October.

“Technology like dashboard cameras and body cameras can be very helpful, but when used by itself technology can also mislead and misinform, which causes other issues and problems within our community,” Gov. Pat McCrory said after signing the bill into law in July.