4 arrested during peaceful protests uptown; more demonstrations planned

4 arrested during peaceful protests uptown; more demonstrations planned

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Authorities arrested four people as about 100 protesters walked around uptown Charlotte Wednesday night, angry at a prosecutor's decision not to charge a Charlotte police officer in the shooting of Keith Scott in September.

Police said on Twitter that the arrests were after the protesters refused to get out of uptown Charlotte streets and stay on the sidewalk.

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The four people arrested are James Marsicano, 23, Landon Rice, 22, and Ngogloan Tran, 21, and a 16-year-old girl.

“If we can positively address what's going on, if our city council, if our mayor, if our elected officials are really proactive, we can be a model city,” Rev. Milton Williams of Walls Memorial AME Zion Church said. “We can turn into a city that the rest of the nation looks at."

The protests remained peaceful and it did not appear anyone was seriously hurt or any property was damaged.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's Civil Emergency Unit was on standby but was never deployed. Police said at the peak of the protests there approximately 75-100 protesters.

The protest started at Charlotte police headquarters after heavy rain pushed through uptown, before proceeding to the location where a protester was shot and killed during two nights of violent demonstrations after Scott was killed by Officer Bradley Vinson.

The protesters who gathered said they wanted a jury to decide the case, not the district attorney.

Protesters marched and chanted, outlining their frustrations with the DA's decision. At one point there was heated dialogue between an officer and protesters.

“A small group of demonstrators gathered in uptown last night beginning at CMPD headquarters and moving to various locations in Center City,” city officials said in a statement. “The demonstrations were lawful for the most part, and for that, we are thankful. During that time, CMPD arrested four people for obstruction of traffic.

Opinions may differ, and many of our goals are the same. We all want a stronger, more inclusive city. There is still work to be done as we move forward together as a community. We will continue to be diligent every day focusing on building relationships and engaging in two-way dialogue throughout our community.”

CMPD’s Constructive Conversation Teams were with protesters Wednesday, listening to concerns, answering questions and engaging in conversations, the department tweeted.

"We want to reach out with the right language,” Lt. Zeru Chickoree said.

The protests lasted about four hours, and ended just before midnight.

Police were still on high alert early Thursday morning, as officers were guarding the entrance to CMPD headquarters and were not letting anyone in. They also closed the street behind the building.

Organizers told Channel 9 that there will likely be a gathering at Marshall Park and more protests at some point Thursday.

But CMPD officials said there were no protests uptown Thursday night.

CMPD’s Civil Emergency Unit was on standby but was never deployed.

Earlier in the night, a prayer group did stop by the police department's headquarters and joined officers in prayer.

Charlotte NAACP president Corine Mack planned to march with them again, after joining them Wednesday night in uptown -- a demonstration she called a great example of a peaceful protest.

“We are hurting and the way we are expressing our hurt may be in the streets in protest,” Mack said.

Mack said many are frustrated over the district attorney’s decision, but also with what she calls a lack of action by the city council to provide more checks and balances for officers.

"To ensure implicit bias training and racism training. To ensure that there's a policy in place for a cop that doesn't have their camera on upon any approach, any interaction, with a citizen of this city," she said.

Mack also wants city council to work with state lawmakers to give the Citizens Review Board subpoena power.

District Attorney Andrew Murray's decision to clear Vinson left some African-American community leaders saying while the shooting may have been legal, it wasn't right.

Many of them called on Charlotte police to change their policies to encourage officers to use non-deadly force, improve their negotiating skills and train them to work on deescalating confrontations before they turn deadly.

"People of color are being shot in situations, many times, where persons who are non-black, doing some of the same things, or worse, are not shot. That is deeply concerning. Criminal activity does not automatically legitimize assassination or death on the spot," said the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP.

Barber and others called for a full federal investigation into the shooting of Scott in the parking lot of his apartment complex in September. And Scott's family said they would conduct their own investigation now that the State Bureau of Investigation's evidence in the case has been released.

Scott family attorney Justin Bamberg said he understood why the district attorney decided not to file charges. "That does not mean that this officer's killing of Keith Scott was right. All that means is that under the view of the DA's office, it wasn't criminal. And those are two completely different things," Bamberg said.

Charlotte police released a statement saying they have invited the independent, Washington-based The Police Foundation to review the department's policies, will ask a judge to release body camera footage on any incident where someone is seriously hurt or killed by an officer as soon as prosecutors allow it and are asking for expanded power for its citizen review panel.

Murray welcomed a long, hard look at the evidence. He gave reporters a 40-minute presentation Wednesday, then released his report online.

Several dozen protesters gathered Wednesday night at Charlotte police headquarters, saying Murray's report was a cover-up to protect white officers who actually shot Scott. They remained calm, unlike the two days of protests in North Carolina's largest city after the shooting. Protests over Scott's death led to more than 100 arrests, two dozen injuries and one death.

Much of Murray's presentation centered on the gun and debunking witnesses who said Scott wasn't armed.

Murray displayed a store's surveillance video taken shortly before the incident, showing the outline of what appeared to be a holstered gun on Scott's ankle. He said Scott's DNA was found on a Colt .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun recovered at the scene.

He shared a Facebook conversation from the man who said he sold the stolen gun to Scott and recognized him from TV coverage after the shooting, and police radio traffic where officers talked about the gun before confronting Scott.

Murray said his team of homicide prosecutors reviewed the evidence, along with other lawyers. He said the investigation relied on 63 State Bureau of Investigation agents working for 2,300 hours. Murray said every one of them agreed with his conclusion.

"All of the credible, available and believable evidence supports the conclusion that Scott was armed with a gun," Murray said.

Even after being cleared of criminal charges, Vinson remains on administrative leave because Charlotte police have not finished their internal investigation, police spokesman Robert Tufano said.

The shooting happened after plainclothes officers went to the complex looking for a suspect with an outstanding warrant when two undercover officers saw Scott - not the suspect they were looking for - inside a car with a gun and marijuana, Murray said.

The officers said they would have ignored the marijuana, but the gun made the situation dangerous to others. They left to get backup, then returned to arrest Scott, Murray said.

Officers said Scott exited the SUV with a gun, ignored at least 10 orders to drop the weapon and appeared to be in a trance, Murray said.

As Scott locked eyes with him, Vinson told investigators, "I felt like if I didn't do anything right then, at that point it's like he was going to shoot me or he's going to shoot one of my buddies, and it was going to happen right now," Vinson told investigators the next day.

Scott's wife, Rakeyia, told reporters and investigators her husband had no gun. But in August, the couple had argued on text messages about the weapon, with Rakeyia Scott reminding her husband he could get 25 years in prison because he was a felon who wasn't supposed to have one.

Murray also debunked comments from several witnesses and Rakeyia Scott to reporters that said either Keith Scott didn't have a gun or was shot by more than one officer. The SBI found some of them couldn't have seen what they said they saw from their vantage points and others said they were influenced by hearing other interviews.

The case was among a series across the country since mid-2014 that spurred a national debate over race and policing.

DA says CMPD officer 'acted lawfully' in shooting death of Keith Scott

Mecklenburg County district attorney Andrew Murray said Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Brentley Vinson acted lawfully when he shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott in a case that touched off several nights of unrest in the city.

Family members of Scott met with prosecutors Wednesday morning and learned that no charges will be filed against the officer accused of shooting and killing their loved one.

Murray confirmed that by announcing no charges would be filed during a news conference at his office later that morning.

Murray started off by saying, "My deepest sympathies go out to the Scott family.”

He told reporters that his meeting with Scott's family was difficult.

(Click PLAY below to watch DA Andrew Murray's full press conference)

BREAKING WATCH LIVE: Mecklenburg County District Attorney announces NO charges will be filed against Officer Brentley Vinson in the Keith Scott case. COMPLETE COVERAGE: http://on.wsoctv.com/2gG4MTK

Posted by WSOC-TV on Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"The family was extremely gracious and wanted to go through the facts of the case. It was a difficult conversation," Murray said.

The district attorney went on to say that the SBI put more than 2,300 hours into the investigation.

Murray urged the community to take a moment and read the full report on the investigation.

"I know that some in the community will be frustrated," Murray said. "But I'm asking, we should not jump to conclusions...this community needs closure."

Murray said that 15 prosecutors reviewed the case and unanimously agreed on the decision.

Vinson, who is also black, shot and killed Scott on Sept. 20.

Scott was sitting in his vehicle at an apartment complex when he was confronted by police. Police video showed officers shouting for Scott to drop a gun numerous times. Scott's family has said he was not armed.

However, Murray showed some evidence that had not been seen until Wednesday.

He displayed a nearby store's surveillance video showing the outline of what appeared to be a holstered gun on Scott's ankle, and he discussed other evidence that Scott was armed.

Murray spent nearly an hour meticulously going over each detail in the investigation, and revealed new information to the public.

Murray explained that officers said they saw Scott with a gun in his right hand and that Scott was "in a trance-like state.”

For the first time, Murray showed video from Vinson's interview with police where he explained why he had fired the shots that killed Scott. Vinson said Scott turned toward him with the gun in his hand and a glazed look in his eyes.

Murray said the gun was cocked, its safety was off and it had a round in its chamber.

Authorities also found a receipt for an ammunition purchase matching a debit card that was in Scott's wallet.

"Officer Vinson was aware that Mr. Scott had a gun and chose to draw his weapon. Scott did not obey commands," Murray said.

He described false claims made by witnesses and said many of them didn't see the shooting and that some were inside at the time.

Scott's widow told investigators he did not own a gun, but Murray said text messages between them show otherwise.

"A month before the shooting there were text messages between Mr. and Mrs. Scott arguing about a gun," he said.

WARNING GRAPHIC BODY CAM VIDEO:

Murray said that Scott’s DNA was on the weapon retrieved at the scene and released details about the sale of the gun and ammunition.

CMPD DASHCAM VIDEO:

Murray quoted from a Facebook chat in which a man discussed selling a gun to Scott.

Murray said the person wrote in the Facebook chat that he felt responsible for Scott's death, and that he was concerned he would be criminally charged. Murray couldn't comment on whether that person would be charged.

"I feel it's my fault he's dead," the text from the chat read.

Murray also said that all claims that an officer other than Vinson shot Scott were false, and said that Vinson took responsibility for the shooting from the beginning.

Murray told reporters that a reading book was never found in Scott’s SUV, only a composition book, which does not match descriptions from witnesses.

The family released the following statement after the news conference:

"We wish to express our thanks and gratitude to Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray, his office and the SBI for the respect they have shown the Scott family and for their willingness to explain how they conducted their investigation and the conclusions they reached. 

"We are profoundly disappointed in their decision not to criminally charge Officer Brantley Vinson for his actions in taking the life of Keith Lamont Scott. While we understand that many in the Charlotte area share our frustration and pain, we ask that everyone work together to fix the system that allowed this tragedy to happen in the first place.

"All our family wanted was justice and for these members of law enforcement to understand that what they did was wrong. We respectfully ask that you please keep any protests that may occur peaceful.

"Responding to violence with violence is never an appropriate response. This is just one more step in our quest for justice."

PAST COVERAGE:

The city of Charlotte released the below statement following the district attorney’s announcement:

“First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of Mr. Keith Lamont Scott and CMPD Officer Brentley Vinson during these difficult times. Today, the District Attorney’s Office announced its decision not to charge Officer Vinson, who was involved in the shooting of Mr. Scott, after reviewing the results from the State Bureau of Investigation’s (SBI) review.

We recognize that for some members of our community, this news will be met with different reactions. No matter where you stand on the issue, the events surrounding the Scott shooting have forever changed our community, and we intend to learn from and build a stronger Charlotte because of it. The city is committed to continuing its work with the community to preserve safety, trust and accountability.”