Activists Steal, Burn Flag After False Social Media Claim Cops Shot Unarmed Teen
Raleigh, NC – False information about an officer-involved shooting in Raleigh on Tuesday led to protests at the police chief’s house and a flag burning at the North Carolina governor’s mansion.
The incident began at about 6:40 p.m. on March 10 when police responded to several 911 calls about a man with a gun in the 1000-block of N. Rogers Lane, according to a press release from the Raleigh Police Department.
"He's flashing it around," the caller told the dispatcher. "Not sure he's using the gun, but he's flashing."
Another 911 caller told the dispatcher that he’d been threatened by the suspect in a restaurant, WRAL reported.
"I know your family. It's done. It's a wrap. You're done,” he claimed the gunman said.
When officers arrived in the area, they spotted a man matching the suspect description given to 911.
Police said the suspect – later identified as 26-year-old Javier Torres – fled at the sight of the officers.
The officers pursued Torres on foot, repeatedly ordering him to stop and drop his weapon, according to the police department.
Torres was shot once in the abdomen during the foot chase.
He was transported to a nearby hospital and was reportedly in “stable” condition, according to WRAL.
The shooting happened at a shopping center where another man was fatally shot by police in April of 2019, CBS News reported.
Police did not release any information about the incident to the media until four hours after the shooting, and by that time, misinformation had spread like wildfire on social media claiming police had shot an unarmed juvenile holding a pizza rather than a gun-wielding adult.
A crowd of protesters went to the home of Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown first demanding answers, CBS News reported.
An even bigger crowd of people gathered in downtown Raleigh shortly before midnight and marched to the state capitol building, where they tore down the American flag.
From there, they marched to the governor’s mansion where they burned the stolen flag, CBS News reported.
Video showed an officer immediately rushed over with a fire extinguisher and then another officer tried to pick up the pieces of the destroyed flag off the ground.
Protesters carried signs and chanted “No justice, no peace!” and “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “RPD is the KKK” as they blocked sidewalks and roads.
Police said one person was arrested during the demonstrations, WRAL reported.
Chief Deck-Brown told reporters at a press conference at 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning that people needed to wait for more information before rushing to judgement.
She clarified that the suspect was an armed adult male and not an unarmed teenager.
"As a result of the reckless and false information that has been spread on social media, a number of spontaneous protests occurred during the night, which caused minor damage to property in and around downtown Raleigh," the chief said.
She told reporters that Torres had run toward an officer before he was shot by another officer, CBS News reported.
The chief said officers recovered a handgun matching the description given by a 911 caller at the scene, WRAL reported.
She said the officer who shot Torres was wearing a bodycam and that she looked forward to sharing the footage.
A few hours later, Wake County Superior Court Judge Graham Shirley approved the release of the bodycam footage, WRAL reported.
She asked that one specific shot filmed while Torres was being treated be removed in order to protect his privacy, but said she had no objection to the rest of it.
The video has not yet been released.