The protests started peacefully when hundreds of protesters gathered in Marshall Park in Uptown Charlotte around 7 p.m. Wednesday night after a police officer shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott on Tuesday. Police say Scott brandished a firearm when they entered the Village at College Downs neighborhood to serve a warrant on another man.
Many protesters held Black Lives Matter signs and some angrily denounced police violence with megaphones, but the protests were peaceful overall.
A group of protesters then walked to the Charlotte Police Department headquarters before the crowds grew into the thousands, making their way down East Trade Street to the Omni Charlotte Hotel.
As police in riot gear began to move in a single file line into the hotel, protesters beat their fists on the glass front doors. Officers responded by firing the first round of tear gas, forcefully pushing the crowd out of the hotel’s entrance. A protester smashed a window at the City Smoke restaurant directly across the street from the hotel. Another spray-painted an obscenity on a police car in the middle of the street.
Around 8:30 p.m., a civilian fired a pistol indiscriminately into a crowd of dozens outside the hotel, turned and ran, leaving a man laying on the ground in a pool of blood on the sidewalk. There was a loud pop, then panic and confusion. Standing about 10 yards away, I looked down the barrel of a pistol. Several people were screaming, saying someone was shot in the head and a crowd quickly formed around the victim, a black male. I thought to myself, “Oh my God, why?” Breathing heavily, I called 911, pacing around in the street. I could be the person on life support. The bullet had whizzed past me. But here I was, still breathing, and reporting this tragic news unfolding in front of me.
The shooter, a black male, was standing at the intersection of East Trade and South College streets with the weapon still aimed. He turned and ran. Emergency personnel arrived about five minutes later.
The City of Charlotte first tweeted the unnamed victim was dead, then later said the person was in critical condition on life support. Less than 24 hours later, he was dead.
Minutes later, police fired crowd dispersal grenades and more tear gas, sending protesters running from the crime scene. At least two officers were reported injured after a dozen were hurt in the first night of protests.
Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency and cleared the way for the deployment of the National Guard after ordering troopers from the State Highway Patrol to come to Charlotte.
The shootings have left the largest city in North Carolina on edge as the police brace for the possibility of more unrest in the days to come. Are more uniformed officers and soldiers the solution to these back-to-back tragedies? They did very little to provoke the violence on the second night of protests. The crowd seemed out for blood. The chanting became angry and obscene. And one bad apple is all it took to make a tragic incident even more so.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated with the victim's death.