CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Videos released Saturday by the Charlotte police department of the fatal encounter between Keith Scott and officers do little to answer some of the most significant questions about the shooting.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney has said as much since the Tuesday shooting that sparked protests and brought nationwide media attention once again to the use of deadly force by law enforcement.
Authorities have said an African-American officer shot Scott, who was black, when he made a threatening move with a gun. Saturday, police released photos of a pistol and ankle holster recovered at the scene.
Scott’s family has said he had no gun, that he was reading a book and was being non-aggressive when police were surrounding him.
Neither police dashcam nor body-camera footage shows Scott pointing a gun at police officers. At one point in the body-camera video, there is a view of Scott from his right side and he has his arm by his body, but it is unclear if there is a gun.
“You can’t clearly identify what, if anything, is in his hand,” attorney Justin Bamberg, who represents the Scott family, said at news conference Saturday evening.
Putney had said, before the videos were released, that “there is no definitive visual evidence that he had a gun in his hand.”
The chief has also said the videos are part of the evidence, the totality of which will show the shooting was justified.
Bamberg says the videos don’t show anything that should have led to Scott losing his life.
What videos show
The release comes one day after a video recorded by Keith Scott’s widow was released publicly. Her video shows the moments leading up to the killing of her husband. She tells police that her husband has a traumatic brain injury as they scream for him to put down a gun.
The dashboard camera footage provided by authorities Saturday shows a patrol vehicle approaching the scene where one plainclothes officer, with his weapon drawn on Scott, is visible. Moments later a uniformed officer joins the first officer’s position behind a truck.
Someone shouts “drop the gun” several times before Scott exits his SUV. While walking backwards, Scott is shot at four times by Officer Brentley Vinson, who is off camera throughout both videos.
Another camera, worn by a uniformed Charlotte police officer, shows that man running up to the encounter.
The officer moves beside a white truck and pauses next to a plainclothes officer before running around to his left to go around to the other side of the vehicles.
As the officer passes a gap between vehicles, Scott is visible with his right arm by his side. The next time Scott is seen, he is lying on the ground with five officers converging on him. One officer begins medical treatment.
There is no audio for the first 25 seconds of the body-cam video and none of the shots is heard. The silence is common with camera systems that are set up to record the most recent pertinent information because it saves battery life and storage space for recorded files.
Tuesday’s shooting of Scott has led to protests — two of which turned violent at times — in Charlotte over the past five nights. It is among a number of shootings in recent years that have spurred debate about how and when police should use deadly force and how race factors into whom police shoot.
Demonstrators on Saturday afternoon gathered for a fifth day in the city’s center. A diverse crowd of 200 to 300 people marched from Marshall Park after a short rally.
Even more people showed up for another protest later in the day.
Fritzi Ross of Carrboro said that when all the videos were considered, “there was no reason to shoot him.”
Another demonstrator, Steffen Merkel, said, “It’s crazy. Like he just got out of the car and got shot.”
‘Don’t shoot him’
Scott’s widow released her cell phone recording of the shooting on Friday.
“Don’t shoot him. He has no weapon,” Rakeyia Scott can be heard saying in the footage. The first portions of the shaky video appear to show a number of police officers surround a vehicle in a parking lot of an apartment complex.
A man repeatedly yells for someone — apparently Keith Scott — to “drop the gun.”
“He doesn’t have a gun. He has a TBI (traumatic brain injury),” Rakeyia Scott says. “He’s not going to do anything to you guys. He just took his medicine.”
Scott’s family has said he was disabled after being in a near-death motorcycle crash last year.
Rakeyia Scott’s video continues through the sound of the four gunshots and the immediate aftermath.
Her video doesn’t show the shooting, and no gun is visible as officers tend to Keith Scott on the ground.
Central to the protests are the differing accounts between police and Scott’s family over what led to his death. Authorities said officers were at the complex looking for another man named in a warrant when Scott pulled up next to the vehicle two of them were in.
One of those officers was Vinson, who said he saw Scott rolling a marijuana joint and then showing a gun, according to a police statement Saturday.
Police said the officers, who were in street clothes, went to another location and put on vests that identified them as police.
When they came back they ordered Scott to drop his gun. A uniformed officer who had arrived tried to break a window with his baton. Scott then got out of the car, a police statement said. Officers continued to yell at him to drop a gun before Vinson fired.
“Officer Vinson perceived Mr. Scott’s actions and movements as an imminent physical threat to himself and the other officers,” police said.
Scott’s DNA and fingerprints were on the gun, police said.
Scott’s family has said he was reading a book and waiting for his son to come home from school at the time. Police said no book was found at the scene.
When asked if the family has changed its feeling about whether Scott had a gun, Bamberg said no, but the attorneys were just beginning to gather facts.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation has taken over the criminal investigation. The internal affairs division of the Charlotte police department is determining if any policies were violated.