Officer who shot, killed armed black man will face no charges
Prosecutors will not file charges against a North Carolina police officer who shot and killed a black man outside his apartment complex — a videotaped incident that triggered violent protests in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area in September.
Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray said Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Brentley Vinson “acted lawfully” when he fatally shot Keith Lamont Scott after officers ordered the 43-year-old father out of his car and instructed him to drop his handgun.
Police were at Scott’s apartment complex Sept. 20 to arrest a wanted criminal but decided to stop Scott after officers saw him in possession of marijuana and a handgun.
The accusation that Scott was armed initially was contested by his wife, who videotaped the shooting, and several witnesses — leading to widespread anger and protests within the community.
Mr. Murray said police struggled with the spread of misinformation by people who claimed to have witnessed the shooting but later recanted their statements when they were formally interviewed as part of the investigation.
“I want everyone in this community to know we meticulously, thoroughly reviewed all of the evidence in this case,” said Mr. Murray, noting that 15 career prosecutors made the unanimous decision not to file charges. “We made sure it was credible evidence in order to make the decision that we made today.”
During a 40-minute presentation to reporters Wednesday, Mr. Murray presented evidence to disprove claims that Scott did not own a firearm and was carrying a book when Officer Vinson, who is also black, shot him.
An attorney representing Scott’s family, Charles Monnett, said they still have questions about how police reacted during the incident, including whether officers used techniques to de-escalate the situation before drawing their weapons.
“This doesn’t end our inquiry,” said Mr. Monnett, noting the possibility of civil liability on the part of the officer or the police department.
Scott’s family previously had said he did not own a firearm. In a video taken at the scene by Scott’s wife, Rakeyia Scott, she can be heard yelling to police that her husband doesn’t have a gun as she pleads with them not to shoot him.
Neither the video taken by Mrs. Scott nor police officers’ body-worn cameras show Scott’s hands — and whether he was carrying a firearm. But Mr. Murray said other evidence, including officer interviews and police radio communications, established that Scott was holding the gun when he stepped out of his car.
“Officers can be heard at least 10 times telling Scott to drop the gun,” Mr. Murray said. “He doesn’t run, doesn’t drop the gun, doesn’t leave it in the car.”
Scott suffered from a traumatic brain injury, and Mr. Murray said Scott was described by officers as having a “trancelike look,” and his actions appeared in line with that of someone taking medication.
During the news conference, Mr. Murray played surveillance video of Scott entering a store shortly before the shooting. It shows what was described by prosecutors as the outline of a holstered gun under Scott’s pant leg. A Colt .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun was recovered from the scene, and Scott was wearing an ankle holster at the time he was shot, the prosecutors said.
Mr. Murray said the gun was stolen about three weeks earlier and someone had sold the firearm to Scott, a convicted felon who was banned from owning a firearm. The prosecutor displayed the text of a Facebook conversation the seller of the firearm had with another person in which he described selling the gun to him.
Cognizant of concern that violence could erupt for a second time over prosecutors’ decision, Mr. Murray and others pleaded for the community to take a “collective pause” and for those angered by the decision to read his office’s report for themselves.
“Please do not act viscerally on news snippets. Read the report,” Mr. Murray said, referring to the investigative report that will be posted to the district attorney’s website.
For two nights after Scott’s death, protesters rioted and looted stores in downtown Charlotte, causing millions of dollars in damage. One person was fatally shot during the chaos and more than two dozen people were injured.
Charlotte officials were prepared for further demonstrations following Wednesday’s announcement, with the police department mobilizing its specialized police units.
“We recognize that for some members of our community, this news will be met with different reactions. No matter where you stand on the issue, the events surrounding the Scott shooting have forever changed our community, and we intend to learn from and build a stronger Charlotte because of it,” city leaders said Wednesday. “The city is committed to continuing its work with the community to preserve safety, trust and accountability.”
The family of Keith Lamont Scott, including his wife Rakeyia Scott (right), speak after finding out charges would not be filed against Police Officer Brentley Vinson in the fatal shooting of her husband. Both the victim and the officer were black.