Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officers shot and killed a black man while searching for an entirely different suspect at an apartment complex in the city Tuesday, triggering protests and outrage from self-identified family members.
A complete account of the incident has yet to emerge, but what is clear from reports in the Charlotte Observer and USA Today is that officers arrived at the Village at College Downs complex on Old Concord Road looking for a suspect with an outstanding warrant. According to reports, they then quickly engaged and killed a black man who had exited a vehicle and was not the suspect targeted in the sweep.
That victim has since been identified as Keith L. Scott, according to WSOC TV. The officer involved has been identified as Officer Brentley Vinson, according to a statement from Charlotte-Mecklenburg police.
Authorities said Scott was armed with a firearm and "posed an imminent deadly threat to the officers, who subsequently fired their weapon striking the subject," in a statement to the Observer.
But people identifying themselves as family members characterized the shooting as reckless and impulsive, saying the officers involved were not in uniform.
A woman who said she is Scott's sister said officers surrounded the man in his vehicle, broke the window, tasered him and shot him four times in rapid succession, reported WBTV.
In a video WBTV posted to Twitter, she said, "He didn't have no gun, he wasn't messing with nobody ... them jump out boys, them undercover detectives, they jumped out their truck. They said 'Hands up! He got a gun, he got a gun.' Pow pow pow pow. That's it."
She also said Scott had a disability, according to WBTV.
A man identifying himself as Scott's brother told WCNC's Tanya Mendis the victim was waiting for his son to arrive from school, but that he exited the vehicle because he was being rapidly approached by officers who could not be distinguished as such because they were wearing no uniform.
WJZY's Brett Baldeck posted to Twitter that a man identifying himself as Scott's brother said the deceased was just carrying a book (it is not immediately clear if Baldeck and Mendis spoke with the same individual).
WSOC's Mark Becker reported speaking to a neighbor who similarly said the item in question was not a gun, but a book.
Crowds of protesters have formed near the scene of the incident. At shortly after 9:00 p.m. Eastern, local media reported police had begun equipping themselves with riot gear. Though the demonstrations were initially peaceful, local media reported the situation was growing more standoffish as of later in the evening.
In July 2015, the Charlotte Observer reported that since 2005, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officers had fired their weapons during 67 incidents, killing 15 and wounding 25. Despite $3.4 million in settlements to families of those harmed, only two officers were suspended or fired in relation to those 67 incidents.
"The DOJ looks skeptically on clearance rates in the mid- and upper 90s, understanding that officers do make mistakes," University of South Carolina law professor and former police officer Seth Stoughton told the Observer. "It's something that gets an eyebrow raised."
September 21, 2016, 5:20 a.m. Eastern: This post has been updated.