No charges will be brought against the police officer in Charlotte, N.C., who shot and killed a black man in September. The shooting death sparked protests and riots, as people took to the city’s streets claiming Keith Lamont Scott was unarmed and simply sitting in a car reading a book. The violence caused millions of dollars in property damage, injuries to civilians and police officers, and one death.
However, most of what was reported by many media outlets and supposed eyewitnesses, including Scott’s wife, was untrue.
In a report issued this morning, District Attorney Andrew Murray said his office found that the conduct of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer Brentley Vinson was lawful.
Here are Murray’s key findings:
- All of the credible, available and believable evidence supports the conclusion that Scott was armed with a gun. That evidence includes DNA, an admission by the seller who illegally sold Scott the gun that was recovered at the scene, and pre-incident radio traffic in which officers can be heard discussing that they saw Scott with a gun. Investigators also located convenience store surveillance footage taken just minutes before the shooting that corroborates Scott’s possession of a holster and weapon.
- According to the evidence presented, Scott drew a gun from his ankle holster when confronted by officers. Scott then exited his vehicle with the gun in his hand. Video evidence shows that officers commanded Scott to drop the gun at least 10 times. Scott failed to comply with those commands.
- Officer Vinson is the only officer who fired his weapon, and he is the officer who shot Scott. He admitted to the shooting from the onset, and firearm analysis found that the shell casings recovered at the scene were fired from his gun.
- Investigators interviewed a number of civilian witnesses who reported seeing the incident. Some of these witnesses gave conflicting statements, as well as statements that are unsupported by video or physical evidence. Three of these witnesses claimed on social media or in media interviews that Scott was unarmed, but the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) later determined they had not actually seen the shooting.
- The SBI found no evidence that Scott was reading or possessed a book when he encountered law enforcement. The SBI also found no credible indication that evidence had been “planted” or altered.
- A police officer or nay other person is justified in using deadly force if he reasonably believed, and in fact believed, that he or another person was in imminent danger of great bodily injury or death. 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, and reaction-time studies show that a person can raise his gun and harm or kill officers before an officer could react to the threat. It is lawful for an officer to take action before it is too late to repel a deadly attack.
As stated in the report, several people who claimed to be witnesses to the shooting were not actually witnesses. Yet they still went to the media making false reports, which played a part in spurring violent protests with accusations of racism against the police department and the City of Charlotte in general.
One woman who claimed to be a witness, Taheshia Williams, gave Al Jazeera an interview after the shooting, in which she said, “I actually saw the shooting.” She claimed that Scott didn’t have a weapon, that he had his hands up and was asking police, “What is the problem? What did I do? What’s wrong?” And then, she said, he was “shot by a white, bald-headed police officer.” Officer Vinson is actually an African American.
Williams told reporters that “Scott had a black book and that she saw Scott step over the book — with his hands raised — after it fell from his lap.”
However, when SBI interviewed her, she said she did not see the shooting and that “she was sitting on the couch, watching television, with the volume turned up so loud and never saw Keith Scott until she went outside her apartment after the shooting.” So, nothing she told the media was true.
Other people who claimed to be witnesses had similar recantations.
This includes Scott’s 18-year-old daughter, Keirra, who streamed “a public video on Facebook under the profile ‘Lyric Adorable Scott.’ In the video, Keirra claims her father was shot by a white officer wearing a red shirt.” She also said he was reading a book. Keirra’s mother later confirmed that the girl was not even present during the incident.
Scott’s wife, Rakeyia, also perpetuated falsehoods, which were exposed by the investigation. She claimed Scott never owned a gun, yet investigators found text messages between her and Scott in August that included an argument about his possession of a firearm (Scott was an felon, which made it illegal for him to own a gun).
At the time of the incident, Rakeyia said “four white officers fired their weapons.” She also said that Officer Vinson was not involved in the incident because he was too far away. “Both statements are factually untrue.”
The wife also said Scott was not violent and hadn’t been since November 2015. However, “medial records demonstrate that Scott had ongoing difficulties with aggression and anger management. Scott was battling an array of psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety, hallucinations and paranoia. Two weeks prior to his death, Rakeyia Scott told her husband’s therapist that his temper and impatience had increased, and as she stated, ‘something has to give.’”
Finally, contrary to reports in the media that police officers had planted a gun at the scene, SBI “determined there was no credible evidence found to substantiate the ‘planting’ or altering of any evidence.”