'Don't shoot him!' North Carolina victim's family release own video of fatal police shooting
Published 23/09/2016 | 20:02
The family of a black man fatally shot by police in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Friday released its own video of the encounter that sparked three days of protests and continued to urge officials to release their own recordings of the slaying.
The moment that a black police officer shoots Keith Scott, a 43-year-old father of seven, cannot be seen in the two-minute video recorded by his wife, Rakeyia, who can be heard urging officers not to open fire on her husband.
"Don't shoot him! He has no weapon," she can be heard telling officers as they yell at Scott to "Drop the gun!" About a half-dozen gunshots can be heard in the video released to U.S. media, followed by her scream, "Did you shoot him? He better not be dead."
Scott's death was the latest in a long string of controversial killings of black people by U.S. police that have stirred an intense debate on race and justice. A United Nations working group on Friday compared the killings to the lynching of black people by white mobs in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Scott's death sparked two days of rioting in North Carolina's largest city, with protesters dismissing the claim of police officers that Scott was holding gun.
Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Chief Kerr Putney has said video taken by police body cameras supports the police's version of events but has refused to release the video publicly. He told reporters on Friday that releasing the video now could harm the investigation into the shooting, now being led by the state.
"I know the expectation is that video footage can be the panacea and I can tell you that is not the case," Putney said, adding that he would eventually agree with the release of the video. "It's a matter of when and a matter of sequence."
- Read more: Charlotte police chief: Family will be allowed to watch video of shooting
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Scott's family, initially contended that he was carrying a book, but after viewing the police video on Thursday said it was "impossible to discern" what, if anything, he was carrying. They urged police to release the footage.
"There's nothing in that video that shows him acting aggressively, threatening or maybe dangerous," said Justin Bamberg, one of the lawyers representing the family, said in an interview early on Friday.
No gun can be seen in Mrs. Scott's video, which was filmed from a nearby curb as the drama unfolded on the street in front of her.
Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican locked in a tight re-election race, signed a law last week that would require authorities to obtain a court order before releasing police video. Critics say it would prevent the sort of transparency that is needed to defuse public anger in the wake of police shootings.
Scott was the 214th black person killed by U.S. police this year out of an overall total of 821, according to Mapping Police Violence, another group created out of the protest movement. There is no national-level government data on police shootings.
The UN working group recommended the U.S. create a reliable national system to track killings and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, as well as ending the practice of racial profiling.
Police arrested a civilian on Thursday and charged him with the murder of a protester who was shot during Wednesday night's protest and died on Thursday, Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Chief Kerr Putney told a press conference on Friday.
Police identified the shooter as Rayquan Borum, 21, and the victim as Justin Carr. They did not disclose Carr's age.
The killing and its aftermath are playing out in a state that has been at the forefront of some of the nation's most bitter political fights in recent years.
North Carolina's Republican-dominated state legislature has tightened voting laws, slashed education spending and passed a law prohibiting transgender people from using the bathroom of their choice.
State officials who pursue these policies are partly to blame for this week's unrest, civil rights leaders say.
"It's somewhat hypocritical to cry out against violence when you pass violent policies," said Reverend William Barber, head of the North Carolina NAACP.
In contrast to the tension in Charlotte, the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was calm after a white police officer was charged with first-degree manslaughter on Thursday for the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man that was also captured on video.
The officer involved in that shooting turned herself in early on Friday and was released on $50,000 bond.