While riots and looting continued in Charlotte over the shooting of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott, the Charlotte police are pushing back on the widely repeated report that Scoot was unarmed and shot walking away from police without any provocation. Police say that Scott was armed and refused to drop his weapon.
The statement followed the wide distribution of a live streamed video below from Scott’s daughter on Facebook accusing the police of shooting and unarmed and disabled man. (Warning Profanity):
Police say that officers and witnesses confirm that Scott was armed and was asked repeatedly to drop his handgun. Police Chief Kerr Putney said that officers saw Scott exit a vehicle with a handgun at an apartment complex: “The officers gave loud, clear verbal commands which were also heard by many of the witnesses. They were instructing the subject, once he got out of the vehicle, to drop the weapon… Mr. Scott exited his vehicle armed with a handgun as the officers continued to yell at him to drop it.”
Putney said Officer Brentley Vinson, who is also African American, shot Scott due to his refusal to drop the weapon to protect herself and others. However, Putney did not say that the gun was pointed at officers at the time.
Under Tennessee v. Garner, “deadly force…may not be used unless necessary to prevent the escape and the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious bodily harm to the officer or others.” Thus, the Supreme Court rejected the prior fleeing felon rule when the felon did not pose an immediate threat to society. Under Graham v. Connor, this is determined according to an “objective reasonableness” standard but a calculus that considers the split second decision-making in such circumstances. If Scott was armed and refused to drop the weapon, most courts show great deference to the police officers in acting to protect themselves or the public.
Scott had a record, including a conviction in 2004 for misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon charge. The record shows dismissed charges of felony assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, and misdemeanors assault on a child under 12, assault on a female and communicating threats. None of that means that his shooting was lawful or warranted. There does appear to be dash cam evidence that may resolve the sharp discrepancies in the case.
As in so many past cases, we are left with starkly different accounts. Someone is obviously lying or grossly misinformed. One account has police gunning down an unarmed man waiting for his school children while another has a man steadfastly refusing to comply with orders while brandishing a gun. The rioting and looting in Charlotte will not do anything to establish the true of either account. What is needed is a thorough investigation with the maximum degree of transparency.