A Charlotte police officer who shot and killed a black man at an apartment complex will not face charges a North Carolina prosecutor announced Wednesday. Charlotte-Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray said Officer Brentley Vinson’s actions in killing Keith Lamont Scott were justified. Scott’s family has said he was not armed. However, at a lengthy news conference 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 gave extensive details about other evidence that Scott was armed.
Plainclothes officers had gone to the complex about 4 p.m. on Sept. 20 looking for a suspect with an outstanding warrant when they saw Scott – not the suspect they were looking for – inside a car with a gun and marijuana, department spokesman Keith Trietley has said in a statement. Officers saw Scott get out of the car with a gun and then get back in, police said. When officers approached, they said, Scott exited the car with the gun again. At that point, officers deemed Scott a threat and Vinson fired his weapon.
Scott, 43, was pronounced dead at Carolinas Medical Center. An autopsy report from Mecklenburg County authorities says Scott died of gunshot wounds to the back and abdomen. Vinson, who is also black, had been with the department for two years at the time of the shooting. He has been on administrative leave which is standard in police shootings.
Scott’s family has said he did not have a gun, but detectives recovered a firearm at the scene, police said. At a Wednesday news conference, Murray played a nearby store’s surveillance video that appeared to show the outline of a gun in a holster on Scott’s right ankle.
Body camera and dashcam recordings released earlier by the police department did not conclusively show that and city officials were criticized for the length of time it took to release police video of the shooting. Scott’s final moments also were recorded by his wife, Rakeyia, in a video shared widely on social media. She can be heard shouting to police that her husband “doesn’t have a gun.” She pleads with the officers not to shoot before a burst of gunfire can be heard.
The shooting led to two nights of violent protests, including a fatal shooting in downtown Charlotte the next night. The unrest gave way to several more days of largely peaceful demonstrations, and the city instituted a curfew for multiple nights.
In October, police in North Carolina’s largest city invited the Police Foundation, an independent, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, D.C., to review its policies and procedures following the shooting.
The foundation has done similar reviews elsewhere, assessing police in St. Louis County, Missouri, after the unrest in Ferguson, and analyzing the response to the terror attack in San Bernardino, California. The case was among a series across the country since mid-2014 that has spurred a national debate over race and policing.
A trial is underway in Charleston, South Carolina, for a since-fired white patrolman, Michael Slager, facing 30 years to life if convicted of murder in the death last year of a black man, Walter Scott, shot while running from a traffic stop in April.
A Minnesota police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile during a July traffic stop remains free as a manslaughter case against him proceeds.
Deaths of other unarmed black males at the hands of law enforcement officers have inspired protests under the “Black Lives Matter” moniker. The Black Lives Matter movement traces its roots to the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012, and gained national ground after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014.