(NEW YORK) — Two deadly police-involved shootings in one week left two black, middle-aged men dead in two cities 1,000 miles apart.
While there may be similarities in these cases, the aftermaths of these shootings played out very differently. Here’s a look how videos of the incidents have been handled, and how the communities reacted in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Police say 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott, a black man, was fatally shot by Brentley Vinson, a black officer with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, on Tuesday afternoon. Police said Scott “posed an imminent deadly threat to the officers, who subsequently fired their weapon, striking the subject.”
Scott’s family has said he wasn’t armed but police told ABC News there is video, yet to be made public, that shows Scott had a gun in his hand. Police said a gun was recovered from the scene.
However, Police Chief Putney admitted that the videos he reviewed do not provide “definitive visual evidence that would confirm that a person is pointing a gun.”
“I did not see that in the videos that I reviewed,” he told reporters Thursday. “So what I can tell you, though, is when taken in the totality of all the other evidence, it supports what we’ve heard and the version of the truth that we gave about the circumstances that happened that led to the death of Mr. Scott.”
Police showed dashboard and body camera footage to Scott’s family per their request, attorneys for the family told ABC News on Thursday. But officials have not released any footage to the public. As protesters demand the release of the video, Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts said this morning, “I do believe the video should be released. … The question is on the timing.”
“We want those eyewitnesses to tell us without being led or have their memories changed by what they heard or saw,” Roberts told reporters.
Meanwhile, attorneys for Scott’s family provided cell phone video to ABC News today showing the moments leading up to and after the shooting.
Scott’s death prompted violent protests in the city this week that left one protester dead and numerous law enforcement officers injured, authorities said. A suspect was arrested in the protester’s death, police said.
John Barnett, who leads a community task force in Charlotte called THUG (True Healing Under God), told ABC News he thinks the Charlotte protests became so violent because the youth who are participating were impatient.
“Young people … don’t have patience for justice or waiting for a video,” he said. “I can wait, I can endure two or three weeks, I understand the investigation process. Young people they want the video. Then when they get the video … what is the response they’re gonna have? It’s not gonna be a positive one. They can’t wait. They’re tired.”
Barnett said he believes the actions of protesters stem from years of shootings of unarmed black teens and men. “We didn’t get any justice for Trayvon Martin. … We didn’t get any justice for Michael Brown,” Barnett said, referring to the 17-year-old who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, and the 18-year-old who was shot and killed by Police Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. A grand jury decided not to indict Wilson.
“We were totally upset when … Zimmerman went free. When O.J. Simpson was set free from all murder charges, white America was angry, mad and wanted to retaliate. They just didn’t act on it,” Barnett said. “When it happened to Trayvon Martin, when it happened to Walter Scott in South Carolina … we’ve had multiple O.J. experiences. And now the young people are doing something about it. They’re acting on it.”
During this week’s violent protests, Barnett said he took to the streets of Charlotte and tried to defuse the situation.
“The last three nights I’ve been going up to the youth whispering in their ear,” he said. “I grab them real softly … target them one by one — you can’t get them as [a] group — [and say] ‘The way you’re screaming and acting right now, that’s not what you call a peaceful protest. If you throw this water bottle at this officer you can get [charged with] assault on an officer.'”
“When you’re mad, you don’t think. Definitely don’t think about repercussions,” he said.
He said he whispers quickly, and one by one. “And it works,” he said. “Some [of them] want somebody whispering in their ear. But you can’t scream at them — that’s what the police are doing.”
Going forward, Barnett said, “we need to have a strong dialogue, and physical action, on race relations. … Race relations is still something we don’t want to talk about.”
He also suggests dialogue with police. “Get police to create a board — when something happens [like an officer-involved shooting] the board comes to us and tells us a timeframe [for the investigation]. With Scott, they haven’t told us a timeframe.”
Days before the deadly Charlotte shooting, a police officer in Tulsa was involved in a deadly shooting.
Betty Shelby, a white Tulsa police officer, is accused of fatally shooting an unarmed black man, 40-year-old Terence Crutcher, last Friday night. Police released video on Monday from a police dashboard camera and from a police helicopter circling overhead. Shelby was charged early this morning with first-degree manslaughter. And in the community, protests was peaceful.
The Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office said, “Despite the heightened tensions felt by all — which seemingly beg for an emotional reaction — our community has consistently demonstrated a willingness to respect the judicial process. It is the shared responsibility of all who have the ability to control their reactions to do just that.”
Marq Lewis of the community activist group We The People Oklahoma told ABC News today that he believes the authorities’ willingness to release video, and the community’s experience with organizing rallies, contributed to the peaceful demonstration in the city.
“We had immediate transparency with the video,” being released by police, he said. “That’s a huge thing.” In Charlotte, where police have yet to release video, “that creates a sense of untrust,” he said.
Also, “we organize our rallies,” Lewis said. He said they make sure there are undercover cops there. “We tell the police department we’re having a rally and they have a police presence. We welcome the police. They understand our agenda but we work with them.”
“We have a great community of leaders here,” Lewis said, adding that they “focus our energy on our specific groups, making sure the message is the same — arrest Shelby. But we also want peace.”
“That’s why it’s important for us to talk directly to the police chief, the mayor, let them understand — we are not here to cause problems, we all love our city,” he said. “None of us want to tear up our city, we just want justice to be done.”
“I believe in Charlotte, 99 percent of protesters are doing the right thing … 1 percent are not,” Lewis said of the violence there.
In Tulsa, if unplanned “pop-up protests” begin, Lewis said community organizers try to diffuse them. “We want to make sure you are safe,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of our own community policing, making sure we’re accountable.”
Lewis, who said he met with the Tulsa chief of police this week, said he aims to hold elected officials accountable for officer-involved shootings in addition to initiating policy changes.
“What I would like to have happen now is justice to be served. But also, we can go back and talk about policy changes,” he said. Lewis said the changes he is working for include: mandatory psychological testing for Tulsa officers after shootings and before returning to work, blood tests for cops involved in shootings, and a requirement for medically trained officers to render care.
As for the future of Officer Shelby, Lewis said, “I would like to see her actually go through the process — a jury of her peers … and to see her being convicted of manslaughter 1. But we understand that is a long process.”
Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Recent posts in National News