"It could have been me": Keith Lamont Scott’s community grapples with his loss
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — On Friday afternoon, kids got off the school bus and ran home laughing to the Village at College Downs.
Men worked on cars outside. A cargo train barreled along the railroad tracks across the street. Students from the nearby University of North Carolina campus returned from class.
And just off the entrance, in a small lot tucked away under the trees, visitors came to pay their respects to the memory of yet another black man shot and killed by the police.
Here, Keith Lamont Scott was killed Tuesday in a confrontation with police, setting off a wave of protests and demonstrations throughout Charlotte. Police say Scott was holding a gun. Few people here believe them. The police refuse to release the videotape of the encounter to the public. A video filmed by Scott's wife came out Friday, but did not capture the shooting itself.
Scott lived here with his family. Neighbors said they would often see him working on his truck not far from the spot where he would draw his last breath.
"I'd see him all the time. Good guy. Never bothered nobody," William Cherry, a painter who lives nearby, said. "Couple times I'd see him, he'd have his truck popped open, working on that same white truck."
"A man lost his life for no apparent reason. It could have been me. I could have been sitting in my car over there," Cherry said.
A handful of camera crews and reporters watched as people trickled in to pay their solemn respects late Friday afternoon. A tent stood about 20 feet from where Scott died, sheltering a table bearing notes, flowers, cards, candles and stuffed animals left by mourners who have flocked here since the shooting. Markers and pieces of paper allowed visitors to leave their own remembrances.
The makeshift memorial to Scott is maintained by Fostoria Pierson, who runs a nonprofit serving veterans out of her home in the Village. Pierson has lived in the area for eight years and at her current address for 14 months. She was home when Scott was killed.
Along with a liaison for the Scott family, she has tended the shrine every day since the shooting, starting in the early morning hours.
"Since it had been raining, I took the stuffed animals in this morning and cleaned them up a little bit. Put them in the dryer," Pierson said, standing next to the table where notes had piled up.
"People have been bringing flowers and after a couple of days, we'll take the ones that have died and toss them, then put some fresh ones here," she said. "We want to keep it well-maintained for the family."
Pierson said she took it upon herself to oversee the memorial so Scott's family could focus on his funeral arrangements.
She plans to collect and deliver the notes to the Scott family in the future.
She said she was frustrated at how her community has been portrayed in the press, and took pride in the stability of the neighborhood she calls home. Pierson said the police rarely came to the Village, other than for an occasional patrol car taking a pass through the parking lot or, in rarer cases, officers responding to a domestic dispute.
"The media keeps saying this is an 'apartment complex,' but it's not," Pierson said as she organized the sheaves of condolence letters written in multicolored marker.
"These are homeowners. Their depiction of it is wrong. I don't know if they want to profile us and make it seem as if it's another low-income black neighborhood, but that is far from the truth."
She said the neighborhood was beginning to return to normal — but residents were still struggling with what happened Tuesday.
"The neighbors are frustrated. They're angry. They're shocked," she said. "But overall, we're getting back to the calm."
As for what happens going forward, Pierson said she hoped some good would emerge from the current turmoil: "It's a shame that it took such a tragedy to bring some of the neighbors together, and that shouldn't be," she said.
"So, you know what I'm going to do — after this has calmed down, and the Scotts have put their loved ones to rest, I'm going to put out flyers and say, 'Hey, let's have our own cookout. Let's have our own fall festival right here.'"
As Pierson spoke, a young man pulled his car up to the spot where Scott died. Police had sprayed orange markings on the pavement to document the scene.
The man dropped to his knees and wept, running his hands over the ground.
"This is me," he said. "It could have been me."
Pierson watched the man for several minutes as he prayed. When he stood up, she embraced and comforted him. The two spoke through tears.
The moment had passed. Pierson went back to the tent to rearrange the memorial once again.