By Greg Lacour
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Reuters) – Tensions flared in Charlotte, North Carolina on Tuesday after police fatally shot a 43-year-old black man who they said was armed with a gun when officers approached him in the parking lot of an apartment complex.
Several hundred people gathered after dark near the shooting scene to protest the death of Keith Lamont Scott, with some throwing water bottles and wielding large sticks as they faced off against police in riot gear.
A few hours earlier, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said officers were at the apartment complex searching for a suspect with an outstanding warrant when they saw Scott get out of his vehicle with a firearm.
Officer Brentley Vinson fired his weapon and struck Scott, who “posed an imminent deadly threat to the officers,” the department said in a statement.
Vinson, who joined the Charlotte police force in July 2014, also is black, according to the department. He has been placed on paid administrative leave.
The fatal shooting came amid an intense national debate over the use of deadly force by police, particularly against black men.
Police did not immediately say if Scott was the suspect they had originally sought at the apartment complex. WSOC-TV reported that he was not.
Detectives recovered the gun Scott was holding at the time of the shooting and were interviewing witnesses, police said.
Protesters and Scott’s family disputed that the dead man was armed. Some family members told local reporters that Scott had been holding a book and was waiting for his son to be dropped off from school.
Shakeala Baker, who lives in a neighboring apartment complex, said she had seen Scott in the parking lot on previous afternoons waiting for his child. But on Tuesday, she watched as medics tended to Scott after he was shot, she said.
“This is just sad,” said Baker, 31. “I get tired of seeing another black person shot every time I turn on the television. But (police are) scared for their own lives. So if they’re scared for their lives, how are they going to protect us?”
Charlotte police said on Twitter that about a dozen officers were injured during Tuesday’s night protest, with one getting hit in the face with a rock. The agency’s “civil emergency unit” was deployed to disperse the crowd, and reporters saw tear gas being used.
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts urged for calm.
“The community deserves answers and (a) full investigation will ensue,” she said on Twitter, adding in a subsequent post, “I want answers too.”
About 200 people gathered earlier Tuesday night for a peaceful protest in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a white officer killed an unarmed black man last week in an incident captured on police videos.
Lawyers for the family of Terence Crutcher, 40, disputed that he posed any threat before he was shot by Tulsa Officer Betty Shelby after his sport utility vehicle broke down on Friday.
(Additional reporting and writing by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, N.C.; Editing by Leslie Adler, Peter Cooney and Michael Perry)
© 2016, Reuters News Agency. All rights reserved.