RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A police shooting that wounded a suspect during a foot chase in Raleigh, North Carolina, sparked protests from hundreds of residents who demanded answers and transparency from the police department.
Raleigh Police said in a statement that officers responded to a call Tuesday evening of a man with a gun in the eastern part of Raleigh near a shopping center. When they arrived to the scene they observed a man, who police identified as 26-year-old Javier Torres, as the person who matched the description given by the 911 caller.
Torres ran upon the arrival of the responding officers and a foot chase ensued, during which police repeatedly ordered Torres to stop and drop the gun, police said. Torres was then shot one time by an officer. He was transported to a nearby hospital by EMS. The extent of Torres’ injuries were not immediately known.
A handgun, as described by the 911 caller, was located at the scene of the shooting, police said. No officers were injured during the pursuit.
WNCN-TV reported that hours after the shooting a large police presence was still on scene. People continued to gather there early Wednesday and that large crowd later began a protest march through the streets, chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets!” and blocking roads in downtown Raleigh.
Community activist Kerwin Pittman, who said he spoke to witnesses after the shooting, offered a different version of events than police about whether the person shot was carrying a gun or how old he was.
“Witnesses say Javier Torres did not have a gun. They say he was carrying a pizza box,” Pittman told The Associated Press by phone early Wednesday morning.
There had been some witness accounts circulating on social media shortly after the shooting that said Torres looked to be about 16 and was unarmed.
“The city is fed up,” Pittman said. “We feel there is always something happening with the Raleigh Police Department. We feel like they are brutalizing us,” he added.
He said the community has tried to get more transparency from the department with requests of things such as a citizen advisory board but that it’s been an uphill battle. “This (shooting) is the fire that sparked the dynamite,” Pittman said. The protests will continue he said.
There were also calls for Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown to come to the scene.
“She needs to be out here to support her black community, right now, tonight…,” Rolanda Byrd told WNCN. Byrd’s 24-year-old son, Akiel Denkins, was shot by Raleigh police while running from an officer in 2016.
With no immediate response from Deck-Brown protesters marched to her home on Tuesday evening and could be seen in her driveway and along her street. There were also police on the scene, with an officer in front of the house. It was not immediately known if the chief was home or addressed the crowd.
Just before 1 a.m. Wednesday the group took a U.S. flag from the Governor’s Mansion and burned it in the street as protesters held a photo of a man nearby.
Some people could be seen on video being arrested by police but it wasn’t immediately clear why they were being detained.
News outlets report that this shooting happened in the same shopping center where Soheil Antonio Mojarrad, 30, was fatally shot by police in April 2019. In that case the officer was wearing a body camera but it was not activated. According to an autopsy, Mojarrad was shot six times: twice in the chest, his left side, his right hip, his right thigh and his right buttock. The Wake County District attorney declined to pursue criminal charges against the Raleigh police officer in that case.
Police say the officer who shot Torres was wearing a body camera that was activated and that it captured the shooting. Other officers present at the scene also had their body cameras activated. The Raleigh Police Department will “seek a petition to authorize release of the video of this incident,” the statement said.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is investigating.
Associated Press Writer Shameka Dudley-Lowe contributed to this report from Atlanta.