When officers stormed the 9600 block of Old Concord Road, they weren’t looking for Keith Lamont Scott.
Within a few minutes, though, police fired shots, and the 43-year-old father of seven lay dead in front of his wife and neighbors. Video released by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Saturday appears to reinforce the narrative that no threat was posed to officers, and more than that, Scott appeared to not have a gun in his hand nor raise his hands toward officers.
In a statement released to media, police said two plain clothes officers were parked looking for a wanted man when Scott parked alongside them and proceeded to roll a blunt within clear view. The officers didn’t consider that serious enough to divert from their operation.
The statement said police then witnessed Scott hold up gun, though they don’t say where.
A video released Friday by Scott’s wife Rakeyia showed her repeatedly notifying police that her husband had suffered a traumatic brain injury and had just taken his medication at the time of his death. Dash cam footage of Scott’s killing appears to paints a portrait of a confused and dazed Scott as he exits his vehicle .
Seconds before the fatal shots rang from the weapon of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer Brentley Vinson, a 26-year-old black man whose father was one of Charlotte’s first black detectives, another officer is seen smashing a passenger-side window of Scott’s SUV.
Scott exits his car, with his hands at his sides, and appears to stumble as he walks backwards. Then four fatal gunshots are heard, and Scott falls to the ground.
Charlotte Police contend that a gun was found at the scene, as well as an ankle holster, though the footage appears to show no firearm in either of Scott’s hands. Police also say that Scott never complied with their commands, though they never issued a command other than “drop the gun” according to the footage.
It’s pretty tough to drop something you don’t have.
The video casts additional doubt upon previous statements issued by Charlotte Police, and further calls into question the integrity of the investigation of the officers at the scene.
There are instances of police discussing how to cover up an act of wrongdoing floating around the internet, including body-cam footage capturing full-fledged “spin.”
After Saturday’s release of the two videos along with evidence photographs of a gun, an ankle holster, and the remains of a alleged marijuana cigarette rolled in a cigar wrapper known as a blunt, crucial questions remain unanswered:
What exactly did the officer see that he believed was a gun? Why would someone roll a blunt in front of police? Do police contend that Scott also smoked the blunt, since the only picture released freely to the media is a half-smoked blunt? Was there any other way to de-escalate the confrontation without surrounding Scott at close range, smashing out his windows, and ultimately resulting in deadly force?
And the biggest question of all: Why were shots fired once it became apparent that Scott did not have a gun in his hand?
North Carolina is an open carry state, meaning residents are free to carry a firearm on their body, though Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney stated in a Saturday news conference that Scott was in unlawful possession of a firearm. Putney refused to issue details of why that was.
Putney also acknowledged that investigators in Charlotte could not see a gun in the videos:
“There is no definitive visual evidence that he had a gun in his hand, that something was in his hand, or that he pointed it at an officer.”
It’s unclear what changed between the instances police described — from marijuana not being a large enough issue to divert from their intended target, or thinking they saw Scott with a firearm in an open-carry state.
The video adds clarity to what happened moments before and after Scott was killed, but leaves other details unclear. Orders were issued for him to drop a gun. He got out of his vehicle after officers began attempting to shatter his passenger side window.
Putney continually stated that he wanted to present the facts, that it wasn’t his job to investigate. The facts in this case seem to be that Scott can’t be seen with a gun in his hand in the video, as Chief Putney said, and that a man was mortally wounded after being shot four times by police.