A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police detective fatally shot a motorist Thursday after the man left his vehicle with a handgun, apparently in an act of road rage, police said.
The victim has been identified as 28-year-old Josue Javier Diaz. Police did not release the name of the detective who shot him, citing the undercover nature of his assignment.
As the afternoon wore on, a small group of protesters gathered along the 6200 block of Albemarle Road, where the shooting occurred. Some prayed while others cursed at police.
Police said the incident began at about 1:15 p.m. when a car with two occupants side-swiped an undercover CMPD detective’s unmarked car while the officer was stopped in traffic on Albemarle Road near Reddman Road. 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.
“Our thoughts are with all involved,” police tweeted.
At a news conference, 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.
Estes said he didn’t know if Diaz shot at the officer and that it was unclear how many shots were fired.
The second person in the car was in custody, Estes said.
Protesters block traffic
At about 4:15 p.m., 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’
Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles 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.”
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.
Albemarle Road was shut down between Farm Pond Lane and Sharon Amity Road. The road was reopened by about 5 p.m.
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 reporter Jim Morrill contributed.