Officers' use of deadly force in the September killing of Keith Lamont Scott has been justified.
No officers have been charged in the killing of Keith Lamont Scott, as the Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray has announced that the fatal gunshots fired by Officer Brentley Vinson were "justified," reports CNN. Scott was shot and killed by Vinson in Charlotte, NC on Sept. 20, and controversial footage of the incident was released by police a few days later. His death inspired protests both peaceful and violent in Charlotte and escalated the national outcry over police brutality and officers' readiness to use deadly force.
A chief motivation in the decision to exonerate Officer Vinson was Scott's alleged possession of a handgun, a claim that has been vehemently denied by critics of the police's handling of the incident. Today, Murray stated that "all the credible evidence" has led the prosecutors to believe that Scott had a gun when Vinson decided to open fire. There is no clear visual proof of Scott possessing any weapon in either the dashcam or bodycam footage, though according to police, a gun with traces of Scott's DNA was found at the scene.
Officers first arrived at the apartment building where the killing eventually took place in order to investigate an unrelated suspect. Vinson claims to have approached Scott, who was initially seated in his vehicle, due to his possession of a gun. Footage shows Scott exiting his vehicle, and he appears to be walking backwards with his hands at his side when he is shot by Officer Vinson four times. Police have said that, while making his exit, Scott was carrying a gun in an ankle holster. In his presentation today, Murray displayed surveillance footage from a convenience store that shows a "bulge" near to Scott's ankle. Police also report to have found a holster at the scene.
Scott's wife had shared a cellphone video of the moments leading up to her husband's killing a day before the release of the police footage. She can be heard yelling to officers that Scott does not have a gun and pleading with them not to shoot him, mentioning her husband's TBI (traumatic brain injury).
In the bodycam video, Scott's wife can be heard screaming, "He better be alive!" after the shots have been fired. After Scott falls to the ground, police initially rush to his body in order to put him in handcuffs. The bodycam video is particularly controversial in that there is no audio for the first 30 seconds of the recording.
Murray said today that he spoke with Scott's family before the decision was announced and that they were "very gracious."
The Scott family attorney, Charles Monnett, has said that the declared innocence of the officers "doesn't end our inquiry." "We still have real questions about what decisions were made that day," he said in a response to today's announcement.
Keith Lamont Scott, who died at age 43, is survived by his widow, Rakeyia Scott, and seven children.