CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - A citizens review board met behind closed doors Tuesday to revisit a police department’s decision that its officer was justified in killing a black man whose wife was begging them not to shoot.
Keith Lamont Scott’s shooting last September provoked days of civil unrest in North Carolina’s largest city, leading to a death, dozens of arrests and millions of dollars in damage.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said the shooting by Officer Brentley Vinson was justified and Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray said no charges would be filed because “someone with a gun in his hand who does not comply with police commands to drop the gun can be reasonably considered to be an imminent deadly threat to officers.”
The review board announced in June that it found a potential error in the department’s decision. It has not publicly revealed what that error might have been.
After approximately eight hours of testimony, the board recessed for the day. Testimony was scheduled to resume on Wednesday. Neither members of the board nor attorneys representing the two sides in the case would comment.
Scott’s final moments were recorded by his wife, Rakeyia, in a video shared widely on social media. In it, she shouts to police that her husband “doesn’t have a gun, he has a TBI,” meaning traumatic brain injury. She repeatedly pleads with them not to shoot before the burst of gunfire is heard.
Violence soon roiled the city. Two months passed before Murray was able to release a 22-page report detailing evidence that Scott was carrying a stolen Colt .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun when he was killed. Murray also gave reporters a 40-minute presentation, including surveillance video taken shortly before the shooting, showing the outline of what appeared to be a holstered gun on Scott’s ankle.
The district attorney also shared a Facebook conversation from the man who said he had sold Scott the gun, and other evidence that when Scott fell to the ground, the Colt .380 landed beside him, cocked and ready to fire.
Scott was confronted by police that day because an undercover officer spotted him holding the gun in his car and rolling a joint of marijuana, the DA’s report said. Body camera and dashcam recordings released by the police department showed Scott slowly backing out of an SUV after an officer told him to put down the gun and used a baton to break the passenger-side window.
In his Nov. 30 announcement that the shooting was lawful, Murray stressed that his review did not address police tactics, or whether officers properly followed department procedures. That’s more the focus of the Citizen’s Review Board, which is scrutinizing the police chief’s determination that the shooting was justified.
Two activists walked in before Tuesday’s meeting began, holding signs reading “Police Accountability Now” and “Justice for Keith Lamont Scott.” One of them, Kass Ottley, spoke with The Charlotte Observer after the hearing went into closed session with lawyers for Scott’s estate, Charles Monnett and Justin Bamberg; and police officers along with their attorney, George Laughrun.
“What we’re seeing is, white people that are not following directions, that have weapons, that have fired actively at officers are coming away alive, they are making it to court, they are making it to trial, whereas black and brown people that are unarmed, just with the assumption of having a firearm, are automatically viewed as a threat,” Ottley said. “That’s a problem, and that has to change.”
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