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State of emergency declared in Charlotte as new protests erupt; at least 14 people injured, 1 seriously

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency in Charlotte on Wednesday night after violent new protests over the police shooting of a black man erupted in the heart of downtown, leaving one man shot and critically wounded.

The shooting Wednesday night occurred as protesters waded into the streets and began streaming toward downtown hotels while police in riot gear fired tear gas and attempted to block their progress.

The governor announced he has initiated efforts to deploy the National Guard and state troopers to help quell the violence, which has raged for the last two nights in Charlotte in response to the death of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott.

The unidentified victim during Wednesday night’s protests is a civilian who was shot by another civilian, the city said on its Twitter account.

City officials initially said the man was dead, but later corrected that to say he was in critical condition, on life support.

McCrory said he was ordering state assistance in response to a request from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney.

“Any violence directed toward our citizens or police officers or destruction of property should not be tolerated,” the governor said in a statement. “I support and commend the law enforcement officials for their bravery and courage during this difficult situation.”

Mayor Jennifer Roberts appealed for protesters to go home and pledged that the city would conduct a thorough and transparent investigation.

“We are working very hard to bring peace and calm back to our city. We know that this is not who Charlotte is. This is not who we are,” she told CNN.

“Violence is not the answer,” she said.

In addition to the man who was seriously hurt, five law enforcement officers and eight other people were injured during Wednesday night’s events. Their injuries were not life-threatening, according to police.  

Protests began quietly downtown on Wednesday afternoon, with chants of "Black lives matter!" and "No justice, no peace!"

But they suddenly escalated as demonstrators moved into a central commercial zone flanked by expensive hotels and the Spectrum Center sports arena.

Windows were smashed at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant, the Charlotte Observer newspaper offices and the Westin Hotel.

Crowds quickly grew near the Omni hotel, and police in riot gear surrounded the increasingly agitated protesters, who began knocking over pots and plants at the hotel driveway. Then the protesters tried to storm the hotel.

Police fired tear gas and nonlethal grenades to quell the crowds. Blood splattered on the street after the man was struck by gunshots.

Both the Ritz-Carlton and Omni shut down, with Ritz-Carlton employees barricading themselves inside with furniture blocking the entrance. At the Omni, where a streak of what looked like blood could be seen on a lobby entrance window, staffers let police in to make arrests and question protesters.

Police said officers did not fire shots. Through much of the evening, they were ordering protesters to back off, shouting: “Lives are in danger!”

But protesters continued to throw bottles and shout. Looters ransacked and broke windows at the Charlotte Hornets store at Spectrum Center, a block away from the site of Wednesday night’s shooting.

By 11 p.m., dozens of demonstrators remained near the shooting scene, not far from the Omni, as police continued to confront protesters, detaining a few.

One demonstrator hoisted a sign saying, "End State-Sanctioned Murder." On a street corner, a young couple snapped selfies, while a man repeatedly shouted, "Jesus saves!"  Nonlethal grenades could be heard on occasion in the background.

A small fire was lighted near a set of streetcar tracks but was quickly put out.

“Last 24 hours of violent protest worst I have ever seen in Charlotte,” tweeted state Rep. Kelly Alexander Jr. (D-Mecklenburg), who urged authorities to release police dashboard-camera video of Scott’s shooting “ASAP.”

Scott was confronted Tuesday by police outside a Charlotte condominium complex where officers had gone to serve an arrest warrant on another person.

Police say Scott emerged from his vehicle with a gun and refused orders to drop it; Scott’s family members contend that he was not armed, and was holding a book.

In a statement Wednesday, Scott's wife, Rakeyia, said she has more "questions than answers" about the shooting after hearing police statements, and she called for peace.

"We respect the rights of those who wish to protest, but we ask that people protest peacefully. Please do not hurt people or members of law enforcement, damage property or take things that do not belong to you in the name of protesting," the statement said.

 

 

jaweed.kaleem@latimes.com

Jaweed Kaleem is The Times' national race and justice correspondent. Follow him onTwitterFacebook and Instagram.

 

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UPDATES:

Sept. 22, 8:10 a.m.: This story was updated with the latest number of people injured.

Sept. 21, 10:05 p.m.: The story was updated to clarify the number of police officers injured and add details of property damage.

8:20 p.m.: The story was updated with the governor’s declaration of a state of emergency and decision to deploy the National Guard.

8:10 p.m.: The story was updated with additional details of the protests and a statement from the governor.

7:45 p.m.: The story was updated with the city’s clarification that the person shot during the protests was critically injured, but not dead.

This story was originally published at 6:30 p.m.

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