CHARLOTTE, NC - This week marks the one year anniversary of the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer.
Scott, 43, was shot and killed on Sept. 20, 2016 by a officer Brentley Vinson, who ultimately did not face charges. Police officers had arrived at Scott's apartment complex to search for an unrelated man with an outstanding warrant. According to CMPD, officers saw Scott exit a vehicle in the parking lot while carrying a handgun, and he refused to comply with their orders. Scott's wife was also present and disputed that account.
The death sparked both violent riots and peaceful protests that lasted for several days in Charlotte. One person, 26-year-old Justin Car, was killed by a civilian during the second night of protests. Carr had been shot in the head. Multiple officers and civilians were injured in the unrest.
The shooting prompted investigations by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Department of Justice. In November 2016, county prosecutors decided not to charge Vinson, concluding that the shooting was justified.
According to CMPD, two plain clothes officers were sitting inside of their unmarked police vehicle preparing to serve an arrest warrant in the parking lot of The Village at College Downs, when a white SUV pulled in and parked beside of them.The officers observed the driver, later identified as Mr. Keith Lamont Scott, rolling what they believed to be a marijuana “blunt.” Officers did not consider Mr. Scott’s drug activity to be a priority at the time and they resumed the warrant operation. A short time later, Officer Vinson observed Mr. Scott hold a gun up.
Due to the combination of illegal drugs and the gun Mr. Scott had in his possession, officers decided to take enforcement action for public safety concerns, according to police. Officers left the area to outfit themselves with marked duty vests and equipment that would clearly identify them as police officers, police said.
Upon returning, the officers told investigators that they again witnessed Mr. Scott in possession of a gun. The officers said they immediately identified themselves as police officers and gave clear, loud and repeated verbal commands to drop the gun. Scott refused to follow the officers repeated verbal commands.
A uniformed officer in a marked patrol vehicle arrived to assist the officers. According to investigators, the uniformed officer utilized his baton to attempt to breach the front passenger window in an effort to arrest Scott.
Police said Scott then exited the vehicle with the gun and backed away from the vehicle while continuing to ignore officers’ repeated loud verbal commands to drop the gun. Officer Vinson perceived Mr. Scott’s actions and movements as an imminent physical threat to himself and the other officers. Officer Vinson fired his issued service weapon, striking Mr. Scott. Officers immediately rendered first aid and requested Medic to respond to the scene.
Homicide Unit Detectives interviewed multiple independent civilian witnesses at the scene and at police headquarters. According to investigators, those witnesses confirmed that officers gave numerous loud verbal commands for Mr. Scott to drop the weapon and also confirmed that at no time did Mr. Scott comply with their commands.
Scott Family Account
Family members of Keith Scott initially told a different story. They had said that Scott was disabled and reading a book in the vehicle while waiting to pick up a child from the school bus. They said Scott never had a gun on him. Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray said in November 2016 that a reading book was not found inside Scott's SUV.
Investigators learned that Scott had purchased a gun eighteen days prior to his death. DA Murray added that Scott had stepped out of his vehicle with a gun and ignored multiple police commands to drop it.
Scott's Wife's Video
On Sept. 23, 2016 cell phone video taken by Scott's wife, Rakeyia, was released that showed the deadly encounter involving police.
The 2 1/2 minute video does not show the shooting, though gunshots can be heard. Before gunfire erupts, police repeatedly tell Scott to drop a gun.
His wife tells officers at the scene repeatedly that he doesn't have a gun and that he has a traumatic brain injury. At one point, she tells him to get out of the car so that police don't break the windows. As the encounter escalates, she tells them repeatedly: "You better not shoot him."
After the gunshots are heard, Scott can be seen laying on the ground while his wife says "he better live."
Police dashcam and body camera recorded the incident. In the dashcam footage, gun shots can be heard. At least three officers can be seen, two white and one black, following the shots who appear to be attending to something or someone on the ground. Police can be heard reporting in "shots fired." The video then ends.
The body cam video shows police aiming their guns at Scott, as well as Scott standing outside his car with his hands at his side, but does not show the moment of the shooting. As Scott exited the vehicle and was stepping backward, the right leg of his pants is seen to be raised, revealing something dark above his shoe. According to police, an ankle holster was found at the scene.
District Attorney's Report
On Nov. 29, 2016, Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray announced that no charges would be filed against officer Vinson in Scott's death. Murray said that Vinson "acted lawfully" and that "all of the credible and available evidence suggests that [Scott] was in fact armed."
Murray displayed a nearby store's surveillance video showing the outline of what appeared to be a holstered gun on Scott's ankle, and he discussed other evidence that Scott was armed. During the news conference, officials presented additional evidence, including DNA on the weapon and details about the sale of the gun and ammo.
Murray also quoted from a Facebook chat, in which a man discussed selling a gun to Keith Scott. Murray says the person said in the Facebook chat that he felt responsibility for Scott's Sept. 20 death, and that he was concerned he would be criminally charged. Murray couldn't comment on whether that person would be charged.
Murray also says that Scott's DNA was found on the slide and grip of a handgun recovered from the scene. Murray said the gun was cocked, its safety was off and it had a round in its chamber. Authorities found a receipt for an ammunition purchase matching a debit card that was in Scott's wallet.
Nights of Protests
The demonstrations reached a violent crescendo on Wednesday before the National Guard was called in a day later to maintain order. One person, 26-year-old Justin Car, was killed by a civilian during the second night of protests. Carr had been shot in the head. Multiple officers and civilians were injured in the unrest.Forty-four people were arrested after Wednesday’s protests.
The next two nights of protests were free of property damage and violence, with organizers stressing a message of peace at the end of the week.
During protests Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, demonstrators headed to the Walmart on N. Tryon in the University area after shutting down Interstate-85 at WT Harris Blvd. Officers in riot gear blocked the entry to Walmart after it was broken into. Employees could be seen sweeping up shattered glass.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.