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After Fatal Police Shooting, Protest Erupts In Charlotte, N.C.

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Sean Rayford/Getty Images

The police shooting of a man in Charlotte, N.C., sparked overnight protests and unrest, temporarily shutting down a major interstate in the area.

The protests began Tuesday night after police shot and killed 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott at an apartment complex near the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

Officers were at the complex to serve a warrant on a different man, The Associated Press reports, when they saw Scott in a car. Police say he had a gun and appeared to be a threat; a police spokesman told the AP a gun was recovered at the scene.

Scott's family, and the protesters who gathered last night, tell a different story, reports Gwendolyn Glenn of member station WFAE.

"The daughter of Keith Lamont Scott says that her father did not have a gun, that he was not armed, and that he was sitting in the car reading a book waiting on his son to get off a bus from school," she says.

Officer Brentley Vinson shot Scott, who later died in the hospital, the AP reports. Vinson, who has been with the department for two years, is on administrative leave while police investigate the shooting — standard department procedure, the wire service says.

Both Vinson and Scott are black.

After the shooting, the woman who says she's Scott's daughter streamed live on Facebook for an hour, as Nick de la Canal of member station WFAE reported.

The video went viral and protesters began to gather at the area, de la Canal says.

Glenn wasn't present for the start of the protest but says that, according to witnesses, it began peacefully.

De la Canal reported on what happened next:

"[A]s the night wore on, more protesters arrived, and the mood turned more aggressive. They forced the shutdown of Old Concord Road, right next to the rail tracks.

"Overhead, a police helicopter was swinging its search light over the crowd, which stretched all the way down the street.

"Just as the 11 o'clock freight train passed, protesters began throwing rocks and water bottles at police, and smashing in the windows of police cruisers, some so badly they had to be towed from the scene. Then, at once, police in riot gear, donned gas masks and helmets, and began shooting rounds of tear gas into the crowd."

De la Canal reports that protesters wrapped T-shirts around their faces; some kneeled and raised their arms as they faced off with the officers. He continues:

"As police fired more rounds of tear gas, protesters began grabbing the canisters and throwing them back. And a new wave of rocks and bricks were hurled at the officers, and a cloud of gas rose over the intersection, glowing green in the light of the traffic signal.

"By midnight, the protesters had moved on. They set off down the ramp to W.T. Harris Blvd., where they stopped traffic and smashed another police cruiser. They banged on the hood of the car in time to chants of "no justice, no peace."

"And over the course of the night, they moved to I-85 and blocked traffic there and started a bonfire in the middle of the highway."

In the early hours of Wednesday, a stretch of the interstate was closed in both directions because of the protests, but it had reopened by rush hour.

Approximately a dozen police officers were injured over the course of the night, according to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

The Associated Press says that one TV news crew withdrew from covering the protests "after demonstrators began rocking their remote van." The mayor of Charlotte, Jennifer Roberts, "appealed for calm and tweeted that 'the community deserves answers,' " the AP says.

By Wednesday morning, the wire service reports, the streets were quiet — just broken glass and rocks testifying to the night's unrest.

Glenn tells NPR there was recently tension in Charlotte over a 2013 police shooting of an black man, Jonathan Ferrell. Ferrell was unarmed when he was killed by a white officer; the case went to trial last year.

"That trial ended in a hung jury and when that verdict came down there were protests in the streets immediately," Glenn says. "Police and the protesters did not clash at that time, but the city was greatly divided."

Tuesday night's shooting and protests in North Carolina come just days after a police officer in Tulsa, Okla., shot and killed an unarmed black man. That shooting happened Friday, and video was released on Monday.

Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said the video, which shows Terence Crutcher walking to his car with his hands over his head before the officer shot him, was "very disturbing." The killing is being investigated by police and by the Justice Department.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

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