No charges for officer responsible for shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Brentley Vinson, minutes after shooting Keith Lamont Scott. (Photo Credit: still from body-camera video released by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.)

The Charlotte, NC police officer responsible for the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott will not face charges related to the killing. Officials are bracing for protest following the announcement. FSRN’s Nell Abram has more.

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Three months after Charlotte-Mecklenburg County police officer Brentley Vinson shot and killed 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott, the county’s District Attorney said Wednesday the officer acted lawfully and was in fear for his life and the lives of his fellow officers on the scene. No charges will be filed.

During a nearly hour-long press conference, Charlotte-Mecklenburg District Attorney R. Andrew Murray recounted the police account of the events that led to Scott’s fatal shooting. He said police came upon Scott as they worked an undercover assignment, targeting someone unrelated to the killing. Officers say from inside the surveillance van, they saw Scott sitting in his car beside them with a small amount of marijuana and a gun. They left the scene, returned with backup and pinned in his vehicle. DA Murray describes what Vinson says he knew at that point.

“Officer Vinson was aware that Mr. Scott had a gun in his vehicle. He was aware that he had marijuana in his vehicle,” Murray said. “He was aware that, when he pinned the car, that Mr. Scott chose to draw that weapon and have it in his hand. He was aware that, after repeated commands, Mr. Scott did not obey those commands, acted with aberrant behavior, steps out of the vehicle with gun in hand, doesn’t run, doesn’t drop the gun, doesn’t leave the gun in the car, but steps out and steps back, assessing each officer with a trance-like look, described by Officer Vinson.”

Much of the incident was captured on police body-worn camera, and Scott’s wife recorded the events on her cell phone as she watched her husband’s killing unfold.

But none of the video shows Scott in the moment he was killed. Witnesses at the scene disputed the police narrative, saying Scott was holding a book, not a gun, at the time he was shot. But Murray claims all credible and available evidence suggests that Scott was armed.

Just after the press conference, Scott family attorney Justin Bamberg took issue with Murray’s finding that the evidence supports the conclusion that officer Vinson’s actions were lawful.

“Based on the facts that we are aware of, and the evidence that has come to light, in part through the SBI’s investigation, I think it’s safe to say that there was a firearm on the scene,” Bamberg allowed. “But what is not clear, and you have heard confirmation today from the DA’s press conference, is that there’s no definitive proof that Keith had a firearm in his hand at the time that this occurred. There’s testimony and there’s statements from the officers that say that he did, but we don’t just go off of witness testimony in and of itself.”

Bamberg added that the presence of a gun in and of itself should not be the deciding factor when an officer chooses to use deadly force, saying, “At the end of the day, whether he had a firearm in his hand or not, that’s not the key question in terms of determining whether or not Keith Scott should have lost his life. It’s whether or not that officer should have pulled the trigger and extinguished his life based on everything as a whole that occurred during those moments.”

North Carolina is an open carry state.

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