There is one undisputed fact in the death of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott: the black man was fatally shot by a Charlotte police officer Tuesday afternoon. The officer is also black.
Vastly different stories have emerged from police and Scott’s family and neighbors about the confrontation. The incident fueled two days of protests that a smaller group of people turned destructive and violent.
Video taken by Scott’s wife and given to NBC and the New York Times was released Friday and doesn’t show the shooting itself. Authorities also have refused to release dashboard and body camera footage.
Here’s what both sides are saying:
Most of the police version of events comes from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney. The department hasn’t released photos, reports or video of the shooting and its version of the events have largely come from Putney’s comments at three news conferences.
A crime reduction team trying to serve a warrant on someone else spotted Scott getting out of his vehicle with a gun, then getting back in as officers approached, Putney said.
Scott then got out of the vehicle a second time with the gun and officer Brentley Vinson feared for his safety and fired, the chief said. Both Vinson and Scott are black, and Vinson was in plain clothes, but wearing a vest with police logos on it.
Putney said the video and other evidence shows Scott’s gun and detectives at the scene recovered a weapon that did not belong to officers near Scott’s body. The angles of the videos from the officers’ vests and dashboard cameras make it impossible to tell if Scott ever pointed the gun at officers, Putney said.
Outside of Putney’s comments, the police department has not shared or released any physical or visual evidence.
“It’s not that I want to hide anything. It’s that I want to be more thoughtful and deliberate in telling the whole story,” Putney said Friday. “I’m a skeptical person. I have my own trust issues and I want to make sure when I do say something and I do deliver something it is complete as I can make it.”
FAMILY AND NEIGHBORS
Scott’s family and neighbors in the condominium complex said Scott did not have a gun. They said he was holding a book and reading as he waited for his son to get off the school bus, staying in the shade because a traumatic brain injury made him sensitive to sunlight.
Another crucial disagreement: Neighbors said it was a white officer who fired the shots, not a black officer.
The video taken by Scott’s wife shows both a white officer and black officer in plain clothes and police vests on the scene. Scott is apparently in the vehicle when the video starts. The video doesn’t show the shooting, but does show Scott face down on the ground immediately afterward.
Scott’s family has also watched the police videos, which haven’t been released to the public. It isn’t clear if Scott is holding anything in those videos, and he was slowly walking backward with his hands by his side when he is shot, family attorney Justin Bamberg said.
LAW ON RELEASING POLICE VIDEOS
For now, North Carolina law gives police agencies leeway on whether to release body camera and other videos.
Current law allows officials to refuse to release videos if the footage is part of a criminal investigation or an officer’s personnel file. But it also allows department leaders to release the footage if it “is essential to maintaining the integrity” of the department.
On Oct. 1, however, a new law regarding police videos takes effect.
The new law does not define police videos as public or personnel records, but said they can only be released to the public by a judge if the judge approves an outside request demanding its release.
The law allows the judge to review the footage privately and in part weight the public’s right to know versus the threat to a fair trial or criminal investigation.
There is a possibility requests to see footage taken before the Oct. 1 law goes into effect could fall into its requirements.
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