Six years later: Charlotte remembers Keith Lamont Scott death, days of protests

We talked with community leaders about the day and what has changed in Charlotte.
We talked with community leaders about the day and what has changed in Charlotte.
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 11:35 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Six years ago, Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed in Charlotte by then-CMPD officer Brentley Vinson.

His death set off days of protests and riots.

We talked with community leaders about the day and what has changed in Charlotte.

Previous Coverage: Former CMPD detective reflects on police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott

Braxton Winston - Mayor Pro Tem

“What do you remember about that time in Charlotte?”

“Well, so I was actually up in Concord, I was coaching a middle school football game and we won the game that afternoon. So I pulled up I was I was stopping to get gas and I was in a chat group with a couple of brothers and Black men that I graduated from Davidson College with. And you know, we had kind of formed this group to kind of keep in touch with each other and became our sounding board. For a lot of the cultural things that were happening over the year prior, you know, this was after Ferguson, after Trayvon (Martin). There was it was, it was a very, it was, it was a lot going on. And in that text group, they said, you know, a man had been killed by police in Charlotte and it was hitting social medias and the media, I remember was like a CBS report.”

It's been six years since Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed by a CMPD officer

Winston says he went to the scene.

“I was like, let me go see, for myself, what was going on, let me not just rely on social media or the news reports, I can go see. So I felt like I needed to go and see. And so when I got to Old Concord road, it was a live investigation, you know, the community couldn’t really go into the apartments. So as we, you know, just the community was kind of gathering and listening community members. The police was still doing their investigation...I decided, let me use this thing called live stream. I turned it on, and I just, you know, stuck around. I was there as the investigation closed, and the people will just, you know, remember a moment. It was a voice that came through the crowd, it was turned out to be Keith Lamont Scott’s daughter, you know, it’s just like, asking questions, you know, you know, ‘Why did you just kill my father, he didn’t have to die.’ And it was just like, a chill came over and everything changed. And people’s decided side, it was like, you know, we gotta get these questions answered and when the police tried to get out of there, the people demanded the conversation to keep going and that turned into a protest. We were met with riot police and tear gas after that and, you know, the rest is kind of history.”

“Talk to me, why what’s important for you to go to the protest, and then talk about the overall feeling down in uptown?

“You know, there was a sense again, that people wanted to hold the government accountable. That’s what I saw. That’s what I experienced. When people had serious gripes and the government was trying to say it, now’s not the time, come back later. And the people said no. And what I experienced was hours of violence, you know. And we stayed there. You know, I never inhaled so much tear gas. I got hit with rocks, but also with less than lethal rounds of weapons. It’s the most pain I’ve ever been in. There was a point in time when people say alright, they’re not going to listen to us. We have to take the message to a different place. That’s when people decided to go in and shut down at five through the night. And they said, We’re going to continue this tomorrow, we’re really struck me about why the demonstrations came to Uptown. This was really demonstrate this with demonstrations that were led not by me, but not by any one person or any one group. But generally, it was young people. It was young people, young people of all different colors. The LGBTQ plus community was at the forefront as well. But young people would say we need to come Uptown, because this doesn’t feel like a place that wants us.”

“Your viral moment came with a photo you in front of police, shirt off and fist up.”

“Well, you know, that picture definitely represented a moment in time, I don’t know exactly when, you know, during the night on that, but that was on Old Concord Road. I had my shirt off, because it was my first time experiencing tear gas, and I was trying to mask myself, that kind of failed. But tensions were very high and, you know, when you’re under those types of chemical agents, they can cause different types of reactions.”

“Did you expect the photo to blow up”

“No, I woke up the next morning and like that image was on like, on the morning shows, Good Morning America and stuff like that. That was very surprising. You know, it was very, honestly very traumatic, you know? Because, like I said, it wasn’t about me, there were hundreds of people out there and there was a sense of community out there, but everybody was out there for maybe different reasons or wanting different things.”

“What does it mean now to be the Mayor Pro Tem and being able to put that change in when it comes to polices and laws?”

“We’re working on generational change and when I started looking at the week that followed the death of Mr. Scott, it was more than just the interaction between police and the community. It was why did it happen here. I built a platform of equity, access and interconnection.”

Greg Jackson - Founder of Heal Charlotte

“Tell me what you remember about these protests that were out here?” WBTV asked.

“Man, I came out on the second day, the first day was riots, on Old Concord. I came out the next day to really show you know, there’s a different way of protesting in a more peaceful and positive way to get the point across. I remember standing on Trade and Tryon and there was a lot of people right up the block on the corner. And I was with some of my friends and we just didn’t feel like we were making enough noise at the moment and then we started to walk down the block towards the police department,” Greg Jackson replied.

“Was it... we have to be out here?

“Yeah, there was such a buildup of young Black men and Black women that were at the other end of a firearm from a police officer and murdered in the streets. Coming up from 2015 to 2016...the Freddie Gray’s, the Philando Castile’s, those names kept coming. I think when it hit Charlotte, it was the last straw. I think as a nation we were all saying enough is enough.”

After the protests, Jackson founded Heal Charlotte in 2017 to address issues that had been swept under the rug. The organization offers after-school programing, housing for the homeless, and a movement to stop the violence in Charlotte.

“It was the least I could do being that all of these things happened off someone losing their life. That’s not something small, something big to his family. God bless Mrs. Carr, Justin Carr’s mom and his family. I didn’t want them to have that happen in vain. Something needed to come out that was positive, that was legacy changing and upward moving for the city. When I seen that I had the opportunity to do that, I wanted to make sure I stood on that and really spark what was next,” Jackson said. “Heal Charlotte represents that this protest is not just one day, it’s 365 days a year and when you say there is a problem, we want to make sure we’re coming up with solutions. So, let’s really heal the city and let’s not band-aids over these gunshot wounds.”

“What do you think has changed in Charlotte?”

“What has changed is...there is a light on poverty in this city, homelessness in this city, there is light on injustices in the city, the light is there, the awareness is there and people are not scared to use their voices. One thing we did ask for in 2016 was transparency from our government, transparency from CMPD. We’ve been able to get that in these six years.”

“What do we have to do to make sure that another Keith Lamont Scott does not happen?”

“We have to continue empowering people. We have to empower the creatives of this city, the leaders of this city, the grassroots organizations of this city and we can’t fall back into the old habits of the city with business as usual.”