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Resources To Quell Protests Will Be Helpful, Charlotte Mayor Says


We've called the mayor of Charlotte, N.C. Jennifer Roberts is her name. Her city faces protests and a state of emergency after a police officer shot and killed Keith Scott, a 43-year-old African-American. Police say he had a gun. His family disputes that.

Mayor Roberts, good morning. Welcome to the program.

JENNIFER ROBERTS: Good morning. Thanks for having me on.

INSKEEP: People will have heard by now, perhaps, that a civilian was shot during last night's protests. What happened last night, as best you understand it?

ROBERTS: Well, as best I understand it, this is a civilian-on-civilian shooting. And there was a large crowd that was gathered in one part of our - uptown, and the shot went off. I'm not sure that we have much information. We are investigating it obviously. And...

INSKEEP: Police are sure that it wasn't one of their officers who fired. Is that correct?

ROBERTS: That's correct. It's pretty clear in the positioning of where the officers were and where the crowd was and how close the crowd was standing together that it would have been very difficult for a bullet to have gone, you know, that far from where the police were standing.

INSKEEP: Governor Pat McCrory is mobilizing the National Guard as protests have continued in your city. Is that necessary?

ROBERTS: Well, I think we had a conversation with our emergency responders and decided that additional resources would be helpful. They are not going to be deployed until this evening. With the additional resources, we believe that we can be more effective at making sure that our city is safe, that our citizens are safe and that our officers are safe.

INSKEEP: How would you describe the tone of the protests so far?

ROBERTS: Well, it was interesting last night. There were several different areas in the uptown where there were peaceful protests, where there were religious leaders gathered, community leaders gathered with signs but speaking about a need for transparency, a need for investigation with integrity. And it was only later that the protests became more violent. I'm telling folks that that is not characteristic of Charlotte. Charlotte's always been a place that comes together, that collaborates and that works through our differences with dialogue.

INSKEEP: Mayor Roberts, I want to ask about the shooting that sparked all of this. Police say that Keith Scott was brandishing a gun. As you know well, his family says he was just waiting on someone, that he, in fact, had a book. There is video, we're told. Why haven't the police released that video yet?

ROBERTS: The investigation around the shooting is still ongoing, and the policy has been that until all the pieces of evidence are in place, until the witnesses have been interviewed, until we can gather a full picture, that we are not releasing that. They're also following the wishes of the family who would like to see that video footage first. And I believe they are arranging to have that happen today.

INSKEEP: Do you mean to say that you will release this video quite soon?

ROBERTS: Well, I don't have a timeframe. And again, it depends on the investigation and its progress. And it depends on the discretion of the chief to some extent. But at one point, yes, we will have that be public. And I need to just follow the process.

INSKEEP: Can you tell the chief, release that video?

INSKEEP: At this point, we will be working with our team in assessing whether or not that will happen and in what order. Again, eventually that will happen. We do not want to jeopardize the integrity of the investigation.

INSKEEP: There's a particular reason I ask so much about this, Mayor. The mayor of Tulsa, Okla., where there was another shooting, as you know, told us yesterday on the program he's going for complete transparency. And anybody who wants to, in America, has seen more than one police video of this incident. Wouldn't that kind of transparency be helpful here?

ROBERTS: Well, the transparency would be helpful if the footage is clear and if it covers all the different parts of what happened that evening. Since I haven't seen it, I'm not certain of that. And that may be the case. There were a couple of different body cameras. There was a dash camera. But as we know, sometimes those can be not clear. They can be from too far away, and I just don't know how conclusive the video footage is yet until I see that.

INSKEEP: You're going to watch today?

ROBERTS: I'm hoping either today or tomorrow, as soon as possible. But again, I - you know, I can't speak about it while the investigation is ongoing. But I certainly would feel better being able to see it.

INSKEEP: What are you telling citizens to do throughout this day and tonight?

ROBERTS: Well, we are telling people that, you know, we are open for business as usual. In our uptown, we are telling folks to be peaceful, to be calm. We know that there are still a lot of people who are questioning the investigation. And, you know, they should certainly exercise their First Amendment rights and protest. But we know that a peaceful protest is the only way, that violence is not an answer and is not going to move us forward.

INSKEEP: Mayor Roberts, one other thing if you have a moment. You mentioned that Charlotte is a city that traditionally comes together, but we've seen something different in recent days. Is it possible that there is more tension, more unease, more distress in the community than you had realized before this incident?

ROBERTS: Well, I think what you find is that because we are so connected on social media, because there is so much in the press about a series of incidents across our country, you know, every time one of these incidents happens, our citizens feel it. And there are gatherings and people talking about, how do we move forward? How do we get past our history of racial division? And how do we work to make sure every citizen has opportunity, that every citizen is treated equally?

And so, you know, I do think that that's part of it, that there is this cumulative effect. But we are a place that has always had great dialogue, that has constructive dialogue. Last night, there were dozens of faith leaders who were in the crowd trying to be between the protesters and the police to bring peace.

INSKEEP: Jennifer Roberts is the mayor of Charlotte, N.C.

Mayor, thanks very much. Best wishes today.

ROBERTS: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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