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9 injured, 44 arrested in Charlotte protests

Charlotte - At least nine people were injured and 44 people were arrested during a second night of violent protests in Charlotte, North Carolina, the city's police chief said on Thursday, following the fatal police shooting of a black man.

One man remained in critical condition after being shot late Wednesday, said Kerr Putney, the chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police. Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and flash-bang grenades to disperse demonstrators who looted stores and threw rocks, bottles and fireworks.

Blood covers the pavement where a person was shot in uptown Charlotte, NC during a protest of the police shooting of Keith Scott, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo: Reuters/Jason Miczek. Credit: REUTERS

Officials initially said the Wednesday victim was shot by a civilian, but on Thursday Putney acknowledged some claims he was shot by a law enforcement officer.

“We're here to seek the truth, so we're investigating that to find the truth, the absolute truth as best as the evidence can show us,” Putney said.

Four police officers suffered non-life threatening injuries, city officials said.

The latest trouble erupted after a peaceful rally earlier in the evening by protesters who reject the official account of how Keith Scott, 43, was gunned down by a black police officer in the parking lot of an apartment complex on Tuesday afternoon.

The killing was the latest in a long series of controversial fatal police shootings of black men across the United States, sparking more than two years of protests asserting racial bias and excessive force by police and giving rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Scott's killing marked the 214th incident of a black person by police this year, according to Mapping Police Violence, an anti-police violence group created out of the protest movement. There is no national-level government data on police shootings.

Authorities say Scott was wielding a handgun and was shot after refusing commands to drop it. His family and a witness say he was holding a book, not a firearm, when he was killed.

A spokesman for the Charlotte Fraternal Order of Police told CNN on Thursday he had seen video from the scene showing Scott holding a gun.

“It is important that we have a full and transparent investigation of the original incident,” Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts told a press conference.

The pleas appeared to go largely unheeded. Overnight, protesters smashed windows and glass doors at a downtown Hyatt hotel and punched two employees, the hotel's manager told Reuters. The slogan “Black Lives Matter” was spray-painted on windows.

Looters were seen smashing windows and grabbing items from a convenience store as well as a shop that sells athletic wear for the National Basketball Association's Charlotte Hornets. Protesters also set fire to trash cans.

“We had a lot of looting at a lot of businesses,” Putney said, adding that state police and National Guard troops would help to secure the area on Thursday.

The people arrested faced such charges as assault, breaking and entering and failure to disperse, he said.

It was the second night of unrest in North Carolina's largest city, one of the biggest U.S. financial centres. Sixteen police officers and several protesters had been injured on Tuesday night and in the early hours of Wednesday.

Bank of America Corp, which is headquartered in Charlotte, and Wells Fargo & Co, which has a large office there, told employees not to report to work at uptown offices.

The American Civil Liberties Union has called on the police in Charlotte to release camera footage of the incident. Authorities have said the officer who shot Scott, Brentley Vinson, was in plainclothes and not wearing a body camera. But according to officials, video was recorded by other officers and by cameras mounted on patrol cars.

Todd Walther, the Charlotte Fraternal Order of Police official, said the plainclothes officers were wearing vests marked “police” and that he saw them do nothing wrong. Releasing the video would satisfy some people, but not everyone, he added, and people will have to wait for the investigation to conclude.

“The clear facts will come out and the truth will come out. It's unfortunate to say that we have to be patient, but that's the way it's going to have to be,” Walter said.

Mayor Roberts said she planned to view the footage on Thursday, but did not indicate if or when it would be made public.

The killing of Scott came just days after a fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in Tulsa, Oklahoma that was recorded on video. Protesters have held peaceful rallies demanding the arrest of the female officer involved.

William Barber, president of North Carolina's chapter of the NAACP, called for the “full release of all facts available,” and said NAACP officials planned to meet with city officials and members of Scott's family on Thursday.

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