Councilwoman calls for review of mayor's handling of Scott shooting, protests

City council members upset with mayor
FILE Photo: David T. Foster III | The Charlotte Observer
FILE Photo: David T. Foster III | The Charlotte Observer

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte City Councilwoman Claire Fallon said she intends to call for a review of the way in which Mayor Jennifer Roberts handled the protests and, at times, riots following the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.

Scott was shot last Tuesday afternoon by officers with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department as police say they tried to arrest him for possessing a weapon while smoking marijuana.

Police video of the incident, released Saturday under pressure from the media, shows Scott exit the car to calls from officers to drop a weapon. CMPD Chief Kerr Putney says Scott was holding a gun in his hand at the time he was shot; that claim cannot be confirmed by video of the incident that has been released.

In the wake of Scott's shooting, protesters took to the street Tuesday night, vandalizing a police car and taking over the interstate. Protesters made their way into the back of an 18-wheeler truck, removed boxes of freight and set them on fire.

Some vehicles were hit by rocks. A WBTV photographer suffered a concussion after he was hit in the head by a rock.

In the wake of Tuesday night's unrest, Roberts was advised that state resources were available to assist as early as Wednesday morning but a state of emergency was not declared until riots broke out in uptown on Wednesday night.

"Our mayor dithered!" Fallon said in an interview Monday afternoon about the Mayor's delay in requesting state resources. "You have to make a decision, you don't dither."

National Guard troops and members of the North Carolina Highway Patrol have been on hand to assist CMPD officers with handling protesters since Thursday. Subsequent nights' protests have been largely peaceful.

Fallon said she will request an inquiry by the city's Governance and Accountability committee over what she describes as Roberts' failure to keep all council members informed of the developing situation and how she planned to respond.

"I'm an elected official. I was never, ever called until Thursday afternoon by another council member who said 'oh, we just noticed you're not on the emails,'" Fallon said.

Other council members questioned Roberts in a chain of emails this weekend in which she told council members she had asked the US Department of Justice to review Scott's shooting death.

"I want to also inform you that I plan to call for an independent review of the incident from DOJ and AG Loretta Lynch," Roberts said in the email chain obtained by On Your Side Investigates.

"I have spoken with US Atty Jill Rose who has informed me that as Mayor I have the authority to do this," the email continued.

Councilman Kenny Smith was first to question the move. Later, Councilman Ed Driggs responded to the thread.
"Were the Governor and the SBI consulted before this decision was made, or have they even been notified since?" Driggs asked. "The state has provided valuable resources to us in dealing with the current crisis, we should be working with them and not suggesting that our police department has problems that can only be solved at the federal level."

Neither Smith nor Driggs returned calls from On Your Side Investigates on Monday.

Late Monday night, a spokeswoman for Rose disputed the assertion made by Roberts in her email that the US Attorney advised her that she had the authority to request a DOJ review of Scott's shooting.

A spokeswoman for Rose issued the following statement:

Beginning early last week, U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose has been in communication with Justice Department officials, state and local law enforcement counterparts, Charlotte leadership and leaders of local community organizations.  Over the course of her communications, and during a lengthy conversation with Mayor Roberts, USA Rose has repeatedly echoed U.S. Attorney General Lynch's comments and reiterated that the Justice Department will continue to monitor the state's investigation, stressing the importance of allowing the state to conduct a thorough and complete investigation.  At the conclusion of the state investigation, Rose explained that the Justice Department will review carefully the facts and evidence gathered by the state.  Rose also has continued to emphasize the need to allow the process to take place so the state can conclude its investigation in a timely manner.

Fallon said Roberts' delayed decision to declare a state of emergency was about appearance; claims first reported by On Your Side Investigates this past Thursday afternoon.

A spokesman for Roberts also did not return an email and text message seeking a response from the Mayor late Monday afternoon. But Roberts denied she was worried about appearances in an interview Thursday evening.

"I think that's inaccurate to say, 'concerned about appearances.' What I'm concerned about is safety," Roberts said.

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