Video stirs Charlotte shooting outrage
Charlotte, N.C. — The family of the man shot by Charlotte police released a harrowing cellphone video of the fatal police encounter Friday, one taken by the victim’s wife in the moments leading up his death.
The cellphone footage, which is shaky and taken for the most part from behind police vehicles, does not clearly show Keith Lamont Scott in the moment he was shot by police. Nor does it resolve the central question of whether he had a gun.
“Don’t shoot him” Scott’s wife, Rakeyia Scott, can be heard shouting to officers as she stands back, behind police vehicles. “He has no weapon.”
As police officers scream at Scott — “drop the gun, drop the gun” — his wife tells them: “He doesn’t have a gun.”
Calmly, she tells them he has a TBI, traumatic brain injury.
“He’s not going to do anything to you guys. He just took his medicine.”
Rakeyia Scott can be heard saying, “Don’t shoot him, don’t shoot him” as police surround a white pick-up in the parking lot of a condominium complex. “He has no weapon — don’t shoot him!”
“Keith, don’t let them break the windows!” she said, her voice quivering.
“Come on out the car,” she insists, “Keith, don’t do it!”
“Keith, get out the car,” her voice rising. “Keith, Keith, Keith — don’t you do it!”
Four gunshots can be heard, followed by Rakeyia Scott’s screams.
“Did you shoot him? Did you shoot him? Did you shoot him?” she screams. “He better not be dead, he better not be ... dead,” she continues as she walks closer to the scene. “He better be alive, he better alive!”
After the shots were fired, Scott is seen splayed on the ground, not moving, and surrounded by officers. His wife calls 911.
The fatal police shooting has set off days of noisy and sometimes violent street protests as activists and family members alike have demanded that police release their videos of the fatal shooting. The city’s police chief, Kerr Putney, has refused to make the videos public, though he did permit Scott’s family to view it.
That debate only deepened Friday when Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Robert said she believed that the tape should be made public — eventually.
“I lean towards transparency in everything our city does,” Roberts said at a Friday morning news conference, noting that the question is timing. “I know there’s a delicate balance when there’s an ongoing investigation. If one piece is released early, it can jeopardize the integrity of the investigation.”
Representatives for the police department and the mayor’s office did not immediately return emails from the Associated Press seeking comment.
Clinton weighs in
The video emerged after a third night of protests over the shooting gave way to quiet streets Friday. The largely peaceful demonstrations in the city’s business district were watched over by rifle-toting members of the National Guard.
During an interview with a South Carolina TV station, the mother of Keith Lamont Scott asked protesters to “give up the rioting” because it’s worsened the situation. Vernita Scott Walker of James Island, S.C., said a peaceful walk is fine, but the rioting and looting “makes it bad for the family.”
Hillary Clinton said Friday that the police video should be released immediately, before she abruptly postponed plans to make a pre-debate visit to the embattled North Carolina city.
Clinton wrote on Twitter that authorities in Charlotte should release the police video of the Scott’s shooting “without delay. We must ensure justice & work to bridge divides.”
The Democratic presidential nominee’s campaign initially said she would travel Sunday to Charlotte. But Clinton decided to postpone the trip hours later after Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts — also a Democrat — told CNN her city’s security resources were stretched thin and urged Clinton to delay her visit.
Protesters called on police to release video that could resolve wildly different accounts of the shooting earlier this week.
Putney said Friday that there is footage from at least one police body camera and one dashboard camera.
The family of Scott, 43, was shown the footage Thursday and demanded that police release it to the public. The video recorded by Scott’s wife had not been previously released.
Demonstrators chanted “release the tape” and “we want the tape” Thursday while briefly blocking an intersection and later climbing the steps to the door of the city government center. Later, several dozen demonstrators walked onto an interstate highway through the city.
State Attorney General Roy Cooper also called on Charlotte officials to release the video, saying doing so would help bring the community and law enforcement together. Cooper, a Democrat, is running for governor in November.
Charlotte is the latest U.S. city to be shaken by protests and recriminations over the death of a black man at the hands of police, a list that includes Baltimore, Milwaukee, Chicago, New York and Ferguson, Missouri. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Thursday, prosecutors charged a white officer with manslaughter for killing an unarmed black man on a city street last week.
Thursday’s protests in Charlotte lacked the violence and property damage of previous nights, and a curfew enacted by the city’s mayor encouraged a stopping point.
Roberts signed documents to keep the curfew in effect from midnight until 6 a.m. each day until the state of emergency declared by the governor ends.
After the curfew took effect, police allowed the crowd of demonstrators to thin without forcing them off the street. Police Capt. Mike Campagna told reporters that officers would not seek to arrest curfew violators as long as they were peaceful.
A question of timing
Putney said Friday that releasing the footage of Scott’s death could inflame the situation. He has said previously that the video will be made public when he believes there is a “compelling reason” to do so.
“It’s a personal struggle, but I have to do what I think is best for my community,” Putney said.
During the same news conference, Roberts said she believes the video should be released, but “the question is on the timing.”
Earlier in the week, the Charlotte protests turned violent, with demonstrators attacking reporters and others, setting fires and smashing windows of hotels, office buildings and restaurants.
Forty-four people were arrested after Wednesday’s protests, and one protester who was shot died at the hospital Thursday. Police on Friday charged Rayquan Borum, 21, with murder in 26-year-old Justin Carr’s death.
Putney said he has seen the video and it does not contain “absolute, definitive evidence that would confirm that a person was pointing a gun.” But he added: “When taken in the totality of all the other evidence, it supports what we said.”
Justin Bamberg, an attorney for Scott’s family, said it’s “impossible to discern” from the videos what, if anything, Scott is holding in his hands.
Scott never aggressively approached officers and was shot as he walked slowly backward with his hands by his side, Bamberg said.
Associated Press contributed.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.