Almost everyone in North Carolina now knows that Keith Lamont Scott was shot by a policeman on September 20th, 2016, which led to protests and riots in Charlotte. That is literally almost all that anyone is certain about; almost all of the other details in the case are controversial.
Here is the police account of what happened: On September 20th, 2016, the Charlotte police were searching an apartment for someone else with a warrant when they saw Scott rolling what appeared to be a marijuana cigar and holding a gun while sitting in a car. The officers eventually went to arrest him. Police officers reportedly told Scott to drop the gun loudly and clearly. The Charlotte police state that Scott failed to do so; the Charlotte Chief of Police, Kerr Putney, stated in a press conference that Scott was an “imminent deadly threat.” At this point, Brentley Vinson, an African-American police officer, shot Scott.
The Scott family, however, reported what happened much differently. According to the family, Scott was reading a book while sitting in the car when Vinson shot him. The police maintain, however, that no book was found at the scene of the crime, and a picture published by the media supports the police account, as it shows an object that looks like a gun near Scott’s body.
While Vinson himself was not wearing a body camera, a few of the other officers nearby had them; however, the police initially refused to release the video from those cameras to the public. The police stated that the video supports their account, but that it does not definitely show that Scott was holding a gun. The family was allowed to see the video, and agreed with the police that the video does not clearly show what sort of object Scott was holding. They did not agree with the police on many other points, though; according to the family, Scott did what the police told him to do and was not aggressive; in other words, Scott was not an “imminent deadly threat.” Eventually, on the 24th, the video was released. The video does not prove that Scott was an “imminent deadly threat” (Scott does not appear to be acting aggressively) but it is impossible to confirm whether or not Scott was holding a gun in the video. A video taken by Scott’s wife, which was also released on September 24th, does not entirely clear up the situation, either. The officers shout “Drop the gun” very clearly in the video, but the video does not show Scott closely enough to definitely prove whether or not he was holding a gun. The videos do not prove anything for certain, which makes it very difficult to ascertain the truth.
Although no one but the police and the witnesses knows with certainty what happened in that fateful encounter, much of Charlotte witnessed the fallout. The night of the shooting, protestors gathered in the streets of Charlotte. Initially, the protests were mostly nonviolent (though items were thrown at police) but soon the situation completely disintegrated. Rioters damaged cars and the police used tear gas to attempt to force the rioters to disperse.
In the following night, the violence was even worse: People randomly damaged property, stole items, and committed random acts of assault; one man, Justin Carr, was murdered. The protests began peacefully, but, as in the previous night, quickly became chaotic. Governor McCrory declared a state of emergency that morning, and Kerr Putney, the Charlotte’s Chief of Police, held a press conference giving the law enforcement’s account of the original incident that led to the riots. The night of the 22rd, the mayor, Jennifer Roberts, imposed a curfew from midnight to 6 a.m. The protests that night were actually rather peaceful (although there was one incident where protesters blocked Interstate 227), and the chaos began to die down.
Since then, Charlotte has remained comparatively peaceful, though protests have begun at colleges around the United States. When the body camera video was released on the 24th and when the Carolina Panthers game took place on the 25th there were more protests, but they were also mostly peaceful. The Charlotte police has begun attempting to identify and arrest rioters, and a funeral has been held for the man who died during the riots. This has been a time of suffering for Charlotte and Scott’s family; we can only hope that both will find healing.
This article was written by Joshua Fitzgerald.