At their weekly Wednesday meeting, members of the Congressional Black Caucus discussed the problem of police shootings and what to do about it.
“It’s become way too common, way too routine. This cannot be like business as usual anymore,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) as he left the House floor for votes Wednesday afternoon.
After several members expressed frustration with the recent fatal shootings of unarmed men, women and children, it was decided that members would march to the Department of Justice on Thursday in protest.
While details for the march were still in the planning stages, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) confirmed that a march was planned, though he did not discuss details.
Several members of the caucus, including Reps. Cleaver, Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) and Al Green (D-Texas), have offered legislation for funding for police body cameras, special grand juries after police shootings and other policing bills.
But frustration is building after recent videos showing the shooting deaths of Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott.
On Friday, Crutcher, 40, was shot by Tulsa, Okla., Police Officer Betty Shelby. Crutcher was unarmed when police approached him. Police dashcam video and police video from a helicopter show Crutcher walking with his hands up, moving toward his vehicle, before police used a Taser on him before shooting him. Officer Shelby was placed on paid administrative leave.
On Tuesday, in Charlotte, N.C., Scott, 43, was shot dead by police. Scott’s family says Scott was fatally shot while he was waiting to pick up his son. Scott’s family also says that he was reading a book. Authorities say Scott had a gun at the time he was shot.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney insisted during a news conference that Scott, in fact, did have a weapon at the time of the shooting.
“I can tell you from the facts that the story’s a little bit different as to how it’s been portrayed so far, especially through social media,” Putney said, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Putney also said that he can’t release video of the shooting because of a law that, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina says, is not in place yet. However, Putney says that state law prohibits release of the police video of the shooting unless there is a court order.
“The law is pretty specific, especially around criminal evidence for an investigation,” he said, the Tribune reports.
“I cannot release that,” Putney told reporters Wednesday when asked about footage of the shooting.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch spoke about the shooting during a speech Wednesday at the International Bar Association Conference in Washington, D.C.
“The Department of Justice is aware of, and we are assessing, the incident that led to the death of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte. We are in regular contact with local authorities as their investigation into the shooting begins to unfold,” Lynch said.
“And on Monday, the Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation into the death of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Okla. As always, the Justice Department will be thorough, impartial and exhaustive in reaching a determination about this incident.”
Lynch continued: “These tragic incidents have once again left Americans with feelings of sorrow, anger and uncertainty. They have once again highlighted—in the most vivid and painful terms—the real divisions that still persist in this nation between law enforcement and communities of color. And in Charlotte, they have once again led to widespread protest.
“Unfortunately, we saw several instances of violence during the protests and 12 police officers and a number of demonstrators were injured as a result. Protest is protected by our Constitution and is a vital instrument for raising issues and creating change. But when it turns violent, it undermines the very justice that it seeks to achieve, and I urge those demonstrating in Charlotte to remain peaceful in their expressions of protest and concern,” Attorney General Lynch said.
Read more at the Chicago Tribune.