Shooting Pushes Charlotte, N.C., toward Boiling Point White Officer Kills Unarmed Black Man in Traffic Stop

Article excerpt

The formula for creating the racial tension enveloping Charlotte could not be more pat: A white police officer shoots and kills a young black man during a seemingly routine traffic stop, and an investigation determines the black man was unarmed.

However, that formula has proved all the more volatile in Charlotte over the past several days. Added to the ingredients is a long history of unsteady relations between police and black residents, who have been leery of official authority for generations.

The mixture also involves a particularly sad spectacle - that of a 4-year-old girl who watched the police officer kill her young father. Moreover, the shooting occurred as a man was being tried on charges of killing 10 black women, a series of deaths that angered many blacks, who accused investigators of paying little attention to murders in their neighborhoods. "You put this shooting on top of everything else going on, and what you're seeing is the building up of dangerous animosity between police and the black community," said the Rev. Smith Turner III, who has lived in Charlotte for more than half of his 63 years. "It's a tension that's not just unhealthy, it's frightening." The officer in the shooting, Michael Marlow, noticed a swerving car Tuesday evening. Marlow flipped on his blue lights. The driver, James Willie Cooper, pulled over and left his car. Police say that Cooper ignored Marlow's commands to return to the car, and that he then reached to his waistband while lunging toward his car. Marlow fired five times, striking Cooper once in the torso. Cooper's daughter, Shaquetta Digsby, was sitting on the passenger side of the front seat. Marlow said he never saw her. Cooper, 19, was killed. Marlow, 28, faces possible criminal charges. And Charlotte is again seriously divided. Protest marches and angry meetings with police add to tension that seems to be growing rather than subsiding. On Saturday, about a dozen students from Central Piedmont Community College canvassed black neighborhoods, pressing residents to become involved in protests. Two public meetings have been held between police officials and residents, and both times about 300 people arrived, many of them angrily shouting for the officer to be prosecuted. "I don't think people are going to calm down any time soon," said Dr. …


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