State News

Wife records police shooting of Charlotte man

Posted September 23

— Unsettling footage obtained exclusively by NBC News shows the moments leading up to the fatal police shooting of a Charlotte man that touched off days of rioting in the city.

The footage, taken by Keith Lamont Scott's wife, doesn't clearly show the exact moment he was shot by police Tuesday. Scott is seen on the ground surrounded by officers moments after the shots were fired.

In the video, police can be heard yelling "Drop the gun" at Scott several times, and Rakeiya Scott tells the officers that her husband doesn't have a gun and that he had taken medication for a traumatic brain injury and didn't pose a threat.

Rakeiya Scott also yelled to her husband, "Keith, don't you do it" several times, although it's unclear what that means.

Four gunshots can be heard, as Scott's wife screams, "Did you shoot him? Did you shoot him?"

The details of the shooting come amid a heated debate over whether footage recorded by police officer body cameras and dashboard cameras should be released publicly.

Scott's family was shown the footage Thursday of his fatal shooting and demanded that police release it to the public.

"You do see him step out (of his truck). At all times, his hands are down by his side. There does appear to be some type of object in his hand, but its impossible to make it out from the videos that we saw," said Justin Bamberg, an attorney for the family. "You don't see him acting aggressively. You don't see him making any head movements like his is arguing with law enforcement.

"This man literally didn't do anything to warrant, I think, the shooting," Bamberg said.

Releasing the police video publicly, he said, "will end a large amount of the speculation because people can see with their own eyes and reach their own conclusions."

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney reiterated Friday that he won't release the video until the investigation of the case is complete, especially now that the State Bureau of Investigation has taken the lead in the case at the request of Scott's family and local prosecutors.

Demonstrators chanted "release the tape" and "we want the tape" Thursday while briefly blocking an intersection near Bank of America headquarters and later climbing the steps to the door of the city government center. Later, several dozen demonstrators walked onto Interstate 77, but Putney said his officers were able to clear them off the highway within 15 minutes.

The protests lacked the violence and property damage of demonstrations Tuesday night and Wednesday night, and a midnight to 6 a.m. curfew imposed by Charlotte leaders encouraged a stopping point. Local officers' ranks were augmented by National Guard members carrying rifles and guarding office buildings against the threat of property damage.

"Last night was what a lawful demonstration looks like," Mayor Jennifer Roberts said at a Friday news conference. "It was great to see people voicing their opinions peacefully."

"I'm encouraged by the manner in which the First Amendment was exercised last night," Putney added.

After the curfew took effect, police allowed the crowd of demonstrators to thin without forcing them off the street. Police Capt. Mike Campagna said officers would not seek to arrest curfew violators as long as they were peaceful.

"The curfew is a tool in our tool belt to help us maintain order," Putney said, noting that only three arrests were made Thursday night.

Forty-four arrests were made Wednesday, and 26-year-old Justin Carr was shot in the head. He died at a local hospital Thursday.

Investigators pored over video from security and surveillance cameras in the area where Carr was shot to identify Rayquan Jamal Borum, 21, as the gunman, Putney said. He was arrested Friday.

Gov. Pat McCrory said the state has spent $287,000 so far to deploy National Guard troops and State Highway Patrol troopers to Charlotte to assist local law enforcement.

"That's exactly why we have reserves, to deal with emergencies," McCrory said.

He praised the response to the violence, especially the clergy in Charlotte for helping defuse the anger in the crowds of demonstrators.

"We saw the best of Charlotte in very tense situations," he said. "We need the community leaders as much as we need – and more – the public safety officials."

Putney said the footage of Scott's killing is inconclusive, and releasing it could inflame the situation and damage trust in the community. 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," he said.

Roberts said there is a "delicate balance" between transparency and jeopardizing the investigation, noting that making the video publicly available too early could color the accounts given by witnesses to investigators.

"I do believe the video should be released. The question is on the timing," she said.

Police have said Scott was shot to death by a black plainclothes officer after he disregarded repeated warnings to drop his gun. Neighbors, though, have said he was holding only a book. The police chief said a gun was found next to the dead man, and there was no book.

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."

Bamberg, the attorney for Scott's family, said Scott was shot as he walked slowly backward with his hands by his side. He said Thursday that Scott's wife saw him get shot, "and that's something she will never, ever forget."

Still, he said, the family doesn't condone violent demonstrations in Scott's name.

"Violence is not the answer. We don't want riots. The family doesn't want innocent people being harmed," he said. "They want people to voice their opinions, make their feelings known and do so in the right way."

The police video has become a political issue, with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and state Attorney General Roy Cooper, the Democratic candidate for governor, both calling Friday for its release.

McCrory declined to comment on Cooper's stance but said he's committed to ensuring a fair investigation of the shooting that doesn't violate anyone's rights.

"If we can be a role model for the rest of the nation on how to deal with these types of issues that the nation is often torn about, we'll be glad to do just that," he said.