For nearly two weeks now, Charlotte has been engulfed in protests and violence, led by members of the Black Lives Matter movement, since the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott on September 20th.
Around 4:00 p.m, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department sent four officers to serve a warrant at The Village at College Downs in Charlotte’s University City District. While sitting in their unmarked car, Keith Lamont Scott parked beside the officers and began rolling his marijuana “blunt.” Officers did not believe this to be a priority until Officer Vinson saw Mr. Scott hold up a firearm.
The officers then put on vests and gave Scott clear and loud commands to drop the gun. He did not comply with the commands and Officer Vinson proceeded to fire his weapon striking the suspect.
This incident has only perpetuated the Black Lives Matter and anti-police movements, issues that have been receiving national attention since the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Until now, Charlotte has been able to avoid national attention. Now, the Queen City has become the newest epicenter of racial tension and law enforcement scrutiny, even serving as a talking-point for the presidential election.
The protests began the same day as the shooting. Scott’s family posted online that he was simply “sitting in his car reading a mother——- book.” He was also suffering from a brain injury after a near-fatal motorcycle accident.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney stated there was no book found in the vehicle. There was, however, a gun, an ankle holster, and a blunt that had been smoked. There was also positive DNA and fingerprints of Mr. Scott on the firearm, eliminating any speculation of police planting evidence. It is not the job of the police department to try the case and that is also not the purpose of this article.
Regardless, between September 20th and September 27th, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has made 82 arrests, one of which was for a murder committed by a civilian. CMPD has done their best to keep law and order.
However, in the midst of all the protests, Captain Mike Campagna is working to make a difference and to communicate with the protestors in hopes of building an understanding between the two groups. I spoke to Captain Campagna regarding his involvement in the protests during their peak days (September 20th – 27th).
Captain Campagna has worked for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department for the last 24 years. Today, he is the captain over the Central Division, which is in the heart of uptown where most of the protests have taken place.
“During this particular event, I found myself in close company with the protesters, many of which started yelling things at me,” said Captain Campagna, “So instead of not responding to them, as they had grown to expect, I started engaging with them.”
The protesters have begun to recognize Captain Campagna. He logged 60 miles walked over 6 days during the heaviest protesting. This led to him building relationships with the protestors.
“This relationship allowed me to act as a liaison of sorts,” said Captain Campagna, “They would let me know what they wanted to do, and I would try to work it out with our Command Center.”
Even though there is evidence to show that the police did not act unjustifiably in this case, there are still those who believe that the police hold biases and often act on them. Captain Campagna says that conflict between police and civilians arises from a lack of communication. He would like to see more police take part in community policing and have conversations with citizens that may allow for more understanding on both ends.
“We have many, many officers ready, willing and able to engage in these conversations,” said Captain Campagna, “But we have to try to have the conversations when we aren’t in the midst of crisis.”