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Man is killed after ramming undercover officer, then opening fire on him; protests still ensue

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Jan. 27–A man killed by an undercover police detective on Albemarle Road in east Charlotte on Thursday had fired his weapon at the officer, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police report says.

Josue Javier Diaz, 28, died in the incident, which started at about 1:15 p.m. when the car in which Diaz and another person were riding side-swiped the undercover CMPD detective’s unmarked car, police said.

28-year-old Josue Javier Diaz.
28-year-old Josue Javier Diaz.

The officer was stopped in traffic on Albemarle Road near Reddman Road at the time. The driver then headed outbound on Albemarle Road, and the detective pulled behind the car to follow it. The detective notified police communications and requested assistance from a marked patrol unit, CMPD said.

“While the detective was notifying communications, the suspect stopped his vehicle directly in front of the detective’s vehicle,” CMPD said in a statement. “The suspect exited his vehicle and displayed a handgun. The detective perceived an imminent threat and fired his service weapon, striking the suspect.”

Medic pronounced Diaz dead at the scene. Police said they recovered a handgun at the scene.

On Friday morning, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney was meeting with east side community leaders to discuss the shooting, Mayor Jennifer Roberts told the Observer.

Roberts said at 9:30 a.m. that she hadn’t yet gotten any updates from police because Putney was still meeting with east side leaders.

Roberts also said she hopes to arrange a larger meeting in the next couple of days with immigrant leaders as well as leaders of older east side neighborhoods.

A woman named Elizabeth Diaz, who identified herself as Diaz’s brother, had started an online fundraising campaign at https://www.gofundme.com/wzq4au8-funeral-expenses.

ActionNC, an advocacy group for low-income families and others, planned a vigil for 5 p.m. Friday at 5500 Executive Center Drive in Charlotte.

At a news conference Thursday, CMPD Deputy Police Chief Jeff Estes said: “It appears it was like a road-rage incident that cost someone his life.” Estes spoke to reporters in the parking lot of the former Eastland Mall, near the shooting scene.

The officer was not wearing a body camera because undercover officers don’t typically wear them, Estes said.

Police said the officer and driver were both Hispanic males. Diaz’s last known address was in east Charlotte, near Lawyers Road.

The second person in the car was in custody, Estes said. On Friday morning, police refused to say whether the person was still in custody.

Protesters block traffic

At about 4:15 p.m. Thursday, about a half dozen demonstrators who had gathered near the shooting scene walked into the middle of Albemarle Road, blocking traffic. Police officers told them to move to the sidewalk. Major Mike Campagna threatened to arrest anyone who refused to move. They all grudgingly complied.

By 4:30, about 15 activists taunted officers, shouting things like “F— the police.”

One man told police, “This wouldn’t have happened in a white neighborhood. … You all need to occupy Ballantyne. That’s where all the drugs are at.”

The shooting happened in a predominantly commercial neighborhood that includes a Mexican restaurant and Pizza Hut.

Soon after police vans left at about 5 p.m., one activist knelt on the road at the scene of the shooting while friends diverted traffic. The activist was praying for the person who was shot.

Then Rev. Ray McKinnon, pastor of South Tryon Community United Methodist Church, led a small group in prayer on the spot in the road where the shooting occurred.

“What they wanted was to pray there,” McKinnon said. “I wanted to honor that and to get them out of the street, frankly. Everyone is raw.”

Protesters also made signs at the scene. One read, “CMPD gets away with murder. Stop criminalizing the people.” Another said, “CMPD murdered a Latino man here. Killed for rear-ending a pig.”

‘Listen to the facts’

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney was on his way to the scene from a city council budget retreat in Raleigh.

Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles, who was also in Raleigh, said: “My goal is to be open, respectful and communicate as much information as we can quickly and hope that people listen to the facts and judge us on that.”

Roberts said she placed her first call to an east side community leader at 1:52 p.m. Thursday. The shooting occurred at 1:18 p.m., police said.

“We want to make that a habit, a pattern, that when something happens, we immediately reach out to the community and again strengthen that partnership to get the full picture and keep our community safe.”

As is standard procedure with a shooting involving an officer, CMPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau will conduct a separate but parallel investigation to determine whether CMPD policies and procedures were followed, police said. The detective will be placed on administrative leave, which is also standard.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call police at 704-432-8477 or Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.

Libby Robertson said she was driving home in slow-moving traffic after stopping at an ATM when she saw a man lying in the road in a pool of blood. Two or three men were carrying a man out of the passenger side of the car and laying him onto the road, where he curled into a fetal position, she said.

Robertson said she thought she’d come upon a wreck. Moments later, two dozen police cars showed up with lights flashing and sirens on, and she knew something more had happened.

“I was horrified,” Robertson, 44, said. “I’ve lived here on the east side all of my life and had never seen anything like this before.”

The fatal police shooting is the first in the city since the death of Keith Lamont Scott on Sept. 20 in northeast Charlotte. Scott was black, as is the officer who shot him. That shooting touched off several days of occasionally violent protests while attracting international media attention to the city.

In November, District Attorney Andrew Murray exonerated Officer Brentley Vinson in the Scott shooting, and the prosecutor denounced pervasive rumors about the case that had spread on social media.

Meanwhile, Scott’s family retained the same attorney who won a record $2.25 million settlement in 2015 from the city in a wrongful-death lawsuit from another police shooting.

Observer researcher Maria David and reporters Jim Morrill and Gavin Off contributed.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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(c)2017 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)

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