Tuesday 24 April 2018

Police officer cleared for shooting man whose death sparked off riots

A still from a police video showing Keith Scott on ground. Photo: AP
A still from a police video showing Keith Scott on ground. Photo: AP

Rachael Alexander in New York

A prosecutor has 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 claims 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 reporters, Mr Murray produced evidence that Mr Scott was armed with a handgun and the officer who killed him feared Mr Scott would shoot.

The 43-year-old was killed on September 20 in the car park of an apartment complex. Much of Mr Murray's presentation centred on the gun and debunking witnesses who said Mr Scott wasn't armed.

Mr Murray displayed a store's surveillance video taken shortly before the incident, showing the outline of what appeared to be a holstered gun on Mr Scott's ankle. He said Mr Scott's DNA was found on a Colt .380-calibre semi-automatic handgun recovered at the scene. He shared a Facebook conversation from the man who said he sold the stolen gun to Mr Scott and recognised him from TV coverage after the shooting, and police radio traffic where officers talked about the gun before confronting Mr 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," Mr Murray said.

A group of nearly 100 people gathered at Charlotte police headquarters in the rain on Wednesday night before marching around downtown Charlotte for about two hours.

They said they don't believe Mr Scott had a gun. They said a white officer actually shot Mr Scott and Mr Murray and state investigators were using Mr Vinson as a scapegoat despite body and dashboard camera footage only showing Mr Vinson firing his weapon.

Mr 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. Mr Murray said every one of them agreed with his conclusion. "All of the credible, available and believable evidence supports the conclusion that Mr Scott was armed with a gun," Mr Murray said.

Immediately after the shooting, a video of Mr 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.

Irish Independent

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