The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said in a statement that 28-year-old Josue Javier Diaz exposed a handgun to an undercover officer, who then shot and killed Diaz.
The CMPD statement, released on Facebook, said the detective was working undercover when Diaz hit his car and continued driving away.
The detective, unidentified due to undercover status, then called for help from a marked police car. According to the statement, during the call, Diaz parked his car in front of the detective, left his car and revealed a handgun.
“The detective perceived an imminent threat and fired his service weapon, striking the suspect,” the statement said.
CMPD has yet to release the officer’s name, but said both Diaz and the detective were Hispanic males. One passenger in Diaz’s car was taken into custody.
The detective who shot Diaz is currently on administrative leave. The statement also said the Internal Affairs Bureau will investigate whether proper procedures were respected, as is standard protocol for shootings involving officers.
This was the first fatal shooting by a police officer in Charlotte since Keith Lamont Scott was killed in September. Tensions between law enforcement and the community skyrocketed after Scott’s shooting — erupting into demonstrations and the declaration of a state of emergency in the city.
After the Scott shooting, body camera and dashboard camera footage were released. However, the undercover officer was not wearing a body camera during the incident on Thursday.
Most agencies that use cameras do not assign them to undercover officers, according to Jeffrey Welty, a professor in the UNC School of Government.
“Obviously, if you’re not trying to look like a cop, walking around wearing a body camera is a pretty strong indicator that you’re a cop,” Welty said.
The internal affairs investigation should bring to light whether any wrongdoing occurred, but he said it is too soon to comment.
“It’s just too early to say, I think, whether it was justified,” Welty said. “We have very fragmentary reports.”
Zach Easterling, a first-year graduate student at UNC-Charlotte, attended a vigil Friday evening to commemorate Diaz. He said the vigil was a peaceful gathering of around 100 people.
“It was a good turnout,” he said. “Josue’s family and friends were there, as well as neighbors and community members and people who have been more engaged with a general resistance to police brutality in Charlotte.”
The vigil stretched from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Friday, but Easterling said people lingered to share stories and mourn together.
“People hung around for another hour talking to each other about their experiences with police,” he said. “To see those folks come together, and to see those connections being made was really good.”
Welty said although rates of fatal shootings by police have remained relatively stable, they command much more public attention now than they did in years past.
“I think anytime there’s an officer-involved shooting, there’s a potential for tension between the police and the community,” Welty said. “A lot of it depends how both sides choose to react.”