Photodisc/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) — Keith Lamont Scott’s alleged possession of a firearm at the time of his shooting death would not on its own be a reason to forcibly disarm him, according to two legal experts.
Police announced on Saturday that lab analysis had revealed the presence of Scott’s DNA and fingerprints on a loaded handgun recovered from the scene by investigators.
Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney also released body and dashboard camera videos of the fatal police shooting of Scott, answering to demands made by community leaders, protesters and politicians, but it is not entirely clear from those videos, or from the one taken by Scott’s wife, Rakeiya Scott, that the victim had a gun, or that he brandished it in a way that would pose a threat to the officers who approached him.
Police also released evidence of an ankle holster and a marijuana cigarette. Police have alleged that Scott was rolling a marijuana “blunt” in his car.
ABC News spoke to E. Gregory Wallace, a professor at Campbell University School of Law in North Carolina, and Joseph E. Kennedy, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, about the state’s open carry gun laws, and they agreed that short of “brandishing” a gun, the presence of a handgun on Scott would not on its own justify an attempt by officers to disarm him.
States like California and New York ban the practice of carrying handguns in public, and some states allow open carry under a license, but North Carolina is among the 31 states that do not require a license.
There are limitations to the law, however; one’s criminal history, drug use or immigration status can forfeit the right to carry a gun.
Wallace noted that if the police saw the marijuana cigarette in combination with the gun, it might be enough to justify forcibly disarming Scott because of the implication of illegal activity, but police would have needed to have seen both at the same time.
“The mere display of a firearm in the city of Charlotte doesn’t give police cause to detain or disarm a citizen,” Wallace said.
Wallace said that the videos fail to show the encounter that lead to his shooting, leaving many questions about the incident unanswered. He separates the Scott incident into two parts: the decision to disarm Scott, followed by the decision to shoot.
“The video doesn’t cover any time prior to having guns drawn,” he said. “My question is: What was the cause of the initial approach?”
The video released by police shows Scott exiting a white SUV. He backs away from it with his hands at his sides, and doesn’t appear to be acting in a threatening manner.
Officers can be heard shouting, “Drop the gun!” in the video.
Scott was shot multiple times. He can be heard in the video moaning in pain as officers apply handcuffs to him.
Kennedy told ABC News that in North Carolina, someone can legally challenge a police officer’s request to put a gun down.
“Having a gun makes you armed, but it doesn’t necessarily make you dangerous,” he said.
He spoke critically of open carry laws, and said that the laws put both citizens and police officers in an “impossible situation” due to the legal justification for citizens to be armed in public.
He added that without a gun in Scott’s hand, the shooting of him should be considered “grossly negligent” on the part of police.
Wallace added that if it could be determined that Scott had his weapon in his holster at the time of the shooting, it would be a “game changer,” noting that it would not have put the police in enough danger to warrant shooting him.
Ray Dotch, Scott’s brother-in-law, called Monday for the release of the full police video, saying that he hopes Americans will take “an absolute unflinching look” at prejudice and police-involved shootings and that “we as a nation tell the truth about who we are.”
It is unclear whether or not the full video will provide clear evidence of what happened during the initial approach to Scott’s vehicle, or whether or not he had a gun in his hand at the time he was shot by police.
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