iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) — Varying interpretations have emerged of the videos that are said to show the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, after both law enforcement and the victim’s family viewed the footage.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said its officers were searching for a suspect who had an outstanding warrant when they encountered Scott, a 43-year-old black man, in a vehicle outside an apartment complex around 4 p.m. Tuesday. Police said Scott was not the suspect that officers sought but that he was holding a handgun, which investigators recovered from the scene, and posed a threat because he was not obeying police orders to remain inside his car and drop the weapon.
An officer subsequently fired his gun, hitting Scott, who police said was treated immediately and later pronounced dead. Police have identified the officer involved in the shooting as Brentley Vinson, who has been employed with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department since July 21, 2014, and is currently assigned to the metro division. He has been placed on paid administrative leave while the investigation into Scott’s death is ongoing, according to Police Chief Kerr Putney. Vinson is African-American.
Vinson was not wearing a body camera at the time, but the other officers who responded to the incident were, police said. A dashboard camera also recorded the incident. Police have not publicly released any footage but Scott’s family have reviewed the video that shows the moment when police fatally shot the man, the family’s attorney told ABC News on Thursday.
What Police Say About the Videos
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said the footage shows Scott with a gun in his hand during his interaction with police officers before he was shot and killed. Police also told ABC News that the gun seen in pictures taken at the scene is the weapon they recovered.
However, Police Chief Putney admitted that the videos he reviewed do not provide “definitive visual evidence that would confirm that a person is pointing a gun.”
“I did not see that in the videos that I reviewed,” he told reporters Thursday. “So what I can tell you, though, is when taken in the totality of all the other evidence, it supports what we’ve heard and the version of the truth that we gave about the circumstances that happened that led to the death of Mr. Scott.”
Putney also said the video evidence alone does not establish whether the shooting was justified.
“We have yet to make a case solely on video,” he said at a news conference today. “However, it can be compelling.”
According to Putney, officers in the videos gave Scott “loud, clear, verbal commands” before Officer Vinson shot him.
“The officers gave loud, clear, verbal commands, which were also heard by many of the witnesses,” the police chief said at a news conference Wednesday. “Mr. Scott exited his vehicle armed with a handgun as the officers continued to yell at him to drop it.”
What the Family Says About the Videos
Scott’s family has said he was holding a book, not a gun, while waiting for his son to be dropped off from school. After reviewing the footage, the family’s attorney said in a statement that it’s “impossible” to detect what Scott is holding and at no point did Scott appear or act aggressively.
“After watching the videos, the family again has more questions than answers,” Justin Bamberg, a lawyer representing Scott’s family, said in the statement Thursday. “When told by police to exit his vehicle, Mr. Scott did so in a very calm, non-aggressive manner. While police did give him several commands, he did not aggressively approach them or raise his hands at members of law enforcement at any time. It is impossible to discern from the videos what, if anything, Mr. Scott is holding in his hands.”
When Bamberg spoke with ABC News today, he said there appears to be an object in Scott’s left hand. But Scott was right-handed, Bamberg said, which raises the question as to why he would be holding a gun in his non-dominant hand if he were to shoot someone.
And even if Scott were in fact holding a gun, it’s questionable as to whether he should have been shot and killed, Bamberg told ABC News.
Attorneys for the Scott family provided ABC News with a cellphone video of Scott’s encounter with police. The video was taken by a woman identified as Scott’s wife, Rakeyia Scott, who can be heard pleading with police to not shoot her husband as officers order the man to “drop the gun.”
In the video, Rakeyia Scott yells back at police, insisting her husband is harmless and doesn’t have a weapon.
“He doesn’t have a gun,” she says. “He has a T.B.I. [traumatic brain injury]. He’s not going to do anything to you guys. He just took his medicine.”
Police continue to yell at Scott to “drop the gun” and, moments later, multiple gunshots ring out. The actual shooting is not shown on the video as Rakeyia Scott points her cellphone at the ground and screams, “Did you shoot him?” She then runs closer to the scene, angling the cellphone camera this time at the spot where her husband was shot. Scott’s body is seen lying in the street surrounded by several officers.
The cellphone video is the first footage of Scott’s encounter with police to be publicly released.
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