Prosecutor clears officer in man’s death, says man was armed
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A prosecutor on Wednesday cleared a Charlotte police officer in the killing of a black man whose death touched off civil unrest, and he presented detailed evidence to rebut assertions that the slain man was unarmed.
Officer Brentley Vinson was justified in opening fire on Keith Scott and won’t face charges, Charlotte-Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray said.
In a 40-minute news presentation to news reporters, Murray produced evidence that Keith Scott was armed with a handgun and the officer who killed him feared Scott would shoot.
The announcement “profoundly disappointed” Scott’s family, but they haven’t decided whether to file a lawsuit, their lawyer said.
Scott, 43, was killed Sept. 20 in the parking lot of an apartment complex.
Much of Murray’s presentation centered on the gun and debunking witnesses who said Scott wasn’t armed.
Murray displayed a store’s surveillance video taken shortly before the incident, showing the outline of what appeared to be a holstered gun on Scott’s ankle. He said Scott’s DNA was found on a Colt .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun recovered at the scene.
He shared a Facebook conversation from the man who said he sold the stolen gun to Scott and recognized him from TV coverage after the shooting, and police radio traffic where officers talked about the gun before confronting Scott.
He also released his report online and asked the public to review his findings before protesting again. Two nights of protests after the shooting resulted in looted stores near the scene and in downtown Charlotte, millions of dollars of damage, a fatal shooting and more than two dozen injuries to police officers and others.
“The community should read the report. Digest the report. Please do not act viscerally on news snippets,” Murray said.
Murray said his team of homicide prosecutors reviewed the evidence, along with other lawyers. He said the investigation relied on 63 State Bureau of Investigation agents working for 2,300 hours. Murray said every one of them agreed with his conclusion.
“All of the credible, available and believable evidence supports the conclusion that Scott was armed with a gun,” Murray said.
Immediately after the shooting, a video of Scott’s final moments recorded by his wife, Rakeyia, was posted on social media. In it, she shouted to police that her husband “doesn’t have a gun.” She pleaded with officers not to shoot before a burst of gunfire could be heard.
Minutes after Murray spoke to reporters, Scott family attorney Justin Bamberg said at a news conference that there still isn’t definitive proof Scott had a gun in his hand when he was shot.