Tensions flared in Raleigh, North Carolina, after a Tuesday night police shooting sparked a social-media frenzy and sent protesters marching to the governor’s mansion, where they reportedly took down flags and burned them.
“This is not who we are as a city,” Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown said at a news conference, blaming the spread of false information for the unrest.
On Twitter and Facebook, posters claimed a 16-year-old boy had been shot in the back while running away from a store with pizza.
But Raleigh Police later said that the suspect, Javier Torres, was 26 years old, that they were responding to a call of a man with a gun, and that he was shot in the abdomen after refusing to drop his weapon. He was in unknown condition at a hospital.
The police chief said the officer who fired and other cops were wearing activated body-cams and that she was seeking permission to release the footage to the public.
“We ask the public not to rush to judgment in this incident,” she said.
The incident unfolded in the evening at a shopping plaza where police had shot and killed another man nearly a year ago. Someone called 911 to report they had seen a gun.
“He’s flashing it around,” the caller said, according to WRAL. “Not sure he’s using the gun, but he’s flashing.”
When police got to the scene, Torres ran, authorities said.
“A foot chase ensued, during which police repeatedly ordered Mr. Torres to stop and drop the gun,” police said in a statement.
“During the chase, Mr. Torres was shot one time by a responding officer. He was transported to a nearby hospital by EMS. A handgun, as described by the 911 caller, was located at the scene of the shooting.”
In the hours after, a Facebook Live video purported to be from a woman who witnessed the shooting was shared on social media.
“We was at the light. We seen this little boy just running, with a pizza,” the woman says in anguished tones, a young child repeating her words in the background. “All of a sudden I seen a cop pull his gun out... and then he put it back in... and the next thing you know you hear gunshots.
“This is wrong,” she added.
An emotional crowd gathered at the small shopping strip and outside the police chief’s house, demanding answers.
“We need immediate and swift transparency regarding this incident because the community has a right to know and needs to know what’s going on,” Kerwin Pittman told CBS17.
They took to the streets, chanting “RPD is KKK,” and at 1 a.m. some headed to the governor’s mansion, where the flags were burned, WRAL reported.
Deck-Brown decried the property damage and pointed the finger at “reckless and false information that has been spread on social media.”
“It is also important that individuals who have a desire to voice their concerns,” she said. “There is a method by which they can do that—without damaging other people’s property, without harming other folks.”
One person was arrested during the disturbances.
The incident happened nearly a year after a Raleigh officer shot and killed Soheil Antonio Mojarrad, 30, near the same intersection. Police said then that Mojarrad refused commands to drop a pocket knife.
The officer’s body-cam was not on during the 2019 confrontation, but the police department later mandated that the cameras always be recording, according to WRAL.