Jimmy James Tyson, 31, a community activist and first responder, was standing 10-15 feet from the riot-police line in front of the Omni Hotel in downtown Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday night—where hundreds of protesters had gathered in response to the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott, 43—when all of sudden, rubber bullets and tear gas canisters exploded into the crowd.
In that exact moment, Justin Carr, 26, fell to the ground.
"The police were feeling threatened; in a matter of minutes [of protesters assembling], rubber bullets, a flash bang and a concussion grenade went off," said Tyson in an exclusive interview with The Root.
"I saw Justin stumble and fall," continued Tyson, who was not acquainted with Carr. "I was standing on the left side of the Omni, and Justin was standing on the right side. I grabbed my medical bag and ran over there."
Tyson, who was arrested last year with Bree Newsome for removing the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Statehouse, can be seen briefly assisting Carr in a video report from the New York Times.
"The left side of his temple was bleeding profusely," Tyson told The Root. "And it's important to say here that his feet were toward the Omni, head pointed away from the police, as if he had been shot from that direction, the direction in which the rubber bullets came flying."
As Carr lay bleeding on the ground, the intensity of the protests escalated.
"I was passing out large surgical pads, attempting to stabilize Justin's spine and neck. Within a minute … a minute at most passed and there was already about 1 liter of blood," Tyson said.
"He said a couple of things and then trailed away," Tyson continued. "I didn’t see any brain matter and cerebral fluid, just deep-red blood. The Fire Department came in riot gear; [they] failed to stabilize his neck or spine. They just carried him by hand."
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department initially claimed that Carr was fatally shot by another civilian before backtracking on those claims in the wake of protesters’ maintaining that Carr was shot with rubber bullets by riot police. The Police Department also initially claimed that Carr died Wednesday, when, in fact, he was in critical condition and on life support.
Carr died from his injuries Thursday. Police Chief Kerr Putney announced Friday afternoon that Rayquan Borum, 21, has been charged with Carr's murder.
"A real-time crime center was able to supply footage from cameras," said Putney. "Currently we are still conducting the interview [of Borum] as the investigation continues, but we already have established probable cause and made that arrest."
That footage has not been released, and Tyson is not buying it.
"I know they arrested a man, but I believe that the city is lying," Tyson said. "I believe that the riot police were lying because they know they shot him.
"I own firearms," Tyson continued. "I know what they sound like. A rifle didn't go off. I did not see a pistol. I did not see any confrontation between protesters. All I saw were rubber bullets. I would testify in a court of law to what I believe to be the truth."
Tyson said that the riot police incited a riot by "shooting directly into the crowd [with rubber bullets]."
"I hate to even call it that, a riot," said Tyson, his voice breaking with sadness. "I’m really disappointed in our city government and in our state. To just add violence unto … how did a man, surrounded by riot police, shoot a man and get away? That doesn't make any sense. And it's extremely convenient for them."
Tyson is not the only one who believes that police are responsible for Carr's death.
“I was in the crowd last night; I was very close to it when it happened,” said Steve Knight, minister of Mission Gathering Christian Church in Charlotte, to ThinkProgress. Knight also says that Carr was standing between two members of the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice when he was shot.
“The strongest thing I can say is that it appeared to me that the shot came from the direction of the police," Knight said.
Writing for the Daily Beast, Ryan James seems to be one of the few people with an account of events that supports the police narrative.
"Standing about 10 yards away, I looked down the barrel of a pistol," James wrote. "Several people were screaming, saying someone was shot in the head and a crowd quickly formed around the victim, a black male. I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, why?’”
Tyson is standing firm on his account of Carr's death and the police's responsibility for it. And he told The Root that he will be right back out there Friday night with his medical gear.
"I'm there to bear witness," Tyson said. "[CMPD and the City of Charlotte] are fabricating all of this. They know there will be more riots if the truth comes out."