Keith Lamont Scott. Mr. Scott was the man (African-American) gunned down by police in Charlotte, North Carolina on Tuesday, 20 September 2016. The facts are still in dispute. The family says that Mr. Scott was reading a book while waiting in the parking lot for his son to return home from school. They say that Mr. Scott had a book, not a weapon. Family members who have seen the police video say Mr. Scott was unarmed and walking backward at the time he was shot. Police say they were attempting to serve a warrant on a different man, not Scott, when they noticed Mr. Scott inside a vehicle. Apparently they ordered him to exit the vehicle, they report that he exited his vehicle with a weapon in hand, and police say they ordered him to drop the weapon. When he did not immediately comply, they felt that their lives were endangered. The police officer who fired the fatal shot was Officer Brentley Vinson, also African-American. Police claim they found a weapon ‘near’ the scene, the family say he had none and that the weapon was planted by police. This is what has been made public, and as you can plainly see, there is wide disparity between the two versions.
There is dash-cam and body-cam video, but Police Chief Kerr Putney has not released it, triggering three-days of protest in the city of Charlotte. Putney claims first that he fears the video would trigger further protests, and second that it “is not definitive”. Putney would, perhaps, be well within his rights, as police chief, if he said he would not release the video just yet, as the investigators were still reviewing it in order to determine what happened. I might have bought that. But instead, he has made statements that made little or no sense, certainly did not justify his refusal to release the video, and made my b.s. meter dance all over the dial.
- “Transparency is in the eye of the beholder. If you think I’m saying we should display a victim’s worst day for public consumption, that is not the transparency I’m speaking of.”
- “I can tell you this: There’s your truth, my truth and the truth. Some people have already made up their minds.”
- “I’m going to be very intentional about protecting the integrity of the investigation, and in so doing, I’m not going to release the video right now,”
- “Because I can tell you from the facts, that the story is a little bit different as to how it’s been portrayed so far, especially through social media.”
- “The video does not give me absolute definitive visual evidence that would confirm that a person is pointing a gun. I did not see that in the videos that I’ve reviewed.”
- “When taken in totality of other evidence, it supports what we’ve heard and the version of the truth about the circumstances that happened that led to the death of Mr. Scott.”
- “I can tell you a weapon was seized, a handgun, I can also tell you we did not find a book that was made reference to. We did find a weapon, and the witnesses corroborated it too, beyond just the officers.”
- “If I felt laws were broken, I would have taken action by now.”
This sort of run-around only leads to speculation. The family has seen the video and they have asked that it be released to the public. Now comes the kicker: If the video is not released by October 1st, it will require a court order to release it. Why? Because North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory recently signed into law a bill, HB 972 , that turns all police body camera and dash camera footage into personnel records, instead of public records. Thus, not only in the case of the video from Mr. Scott’s shooting, but in all future cases, dash-cam and body-cam video will be unavailable to the public. How very convenient in a state where six people have died in police shootings so far this year.
I cannot comment on the facts of the case, because there are no verifiable facts as yet. And, neither am I a huge proponent of video made public that shows a man being shot and killed. BUT … in this case, it would seem the old adage “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” may be applicable. Given the ambiguity of Chief Putney’s various statements, and given the statements by family members who have seen the video, I think it needs to be released to the public before October 1 when HB 972 goes into effect. The law, by the way, does not have the support of many police chiefs who argue that it would hamper their ability to prove they were justified in using force. I would agree with them.