Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have announced that a man an officer shot and killed on the morning of 20 September 2016 was holding a gun, rather than a book.
43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott was sitting in a car in an apartment complex when police arrived to serve an outstanding warrant for someone else. At that point, the stories diverge wildly. Scott's family purportedly said that he was reading a book and carried no weapons:
Police said they recovered the firearm Scott was holding. But a woman who said she is Scott’s daughter claimed on a live-streamed video on Facebook that Scott was unarmed when he was shot. The video went viral, with more than 521,000 views by 9:30 p.m.
In the video, the woman said her father was sitting in his car reading a book and waiting for the school bus to drop off his son. She claimed that her father was Tasered and then shot four times, and that he was disabled.
On 23 September 2016, Scott's wife, Rakeyia Scott, released video that she had recorded on her cell phone. She had walked out to the parking lot to bring her husband a phone charger and saw his car surrounded by police. The video does not show the moment of the shooting, but its immediate aftermath is clear:
The lawyers also brought attention to an object that they said could be seen on the ground near Mr. Scott after he was shot. They said the object seemed to appear in the video after the camera panned away briefly, in a place where no object was previously visible.
The video had been widely viewed both online and on television by Friday afternoon. City and police officials did not respond to Ms. Scott’s video.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police had said in a 21 September statement that Scott had a gun in his hand, and released photographs to bolster that statement:
The subject exited the vehicle armed with a handgun. Officers observed the subject get back into the vehicle at which time they began to approach the subject.
Officers gave loud and clear verbal commands, corroborated by witnesses, for the subject to drop the weapon.
In spite of these verbal commands, Mr. Scott exited the vehicle still armed with the handgun as officers continued to tell him to drop his weapon.
The subject posed an imminent deadly threat to the officers and Officer Brentley Vinson subsequently fired his weapon striking the subject.
Even if he did have a gun, the fact remains that Scott was not the subject of the warrant that police were at the apartment complex to serve, and open carry is legal in North Carolina.
The officer who shot him, Brentley Vinson, is from Charlotte:
Officer Brantley Vinson grew up in Charlotte. His father was one of the first black detectives for the Charlotte Police Department
— Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) September 21, 2016
Demonstrations rocked the city of Charlotte the night of the shooting, backing up traffic for hours and leaving at least sixteen police officers and three reporters injured. Scott's wife, Rakeyia Scott, has released a statement asking that all future protests remain peaceful:
My family is devastated by the shooting death of my husband, Keith.
Keith was a loving husband, father, brother and friend who will be deeply missed every day.
As a family, we respect the rights of those who wish to protest, but we ask that people protest peacefully. Please do not hurt people or members of law enforcement, damage property or take things that do not belong to you in the name of protesting.
After listening to remarks made by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Putney today, we have more questions than answers about Keith's death. Rest assured, we will work diligently to get answers to our questions as quickly as possible.
In the near future, we will offer more information about Keith and our family.
Until then, we ask that you please respect our family's privacy as we grieve and prepare to lay Keith to rest.
An internal investigation is continuing into the shooting; meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union (along with other other civil liberties advocates) is calling on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to release its footage of the shooting.