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On Saturday, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department released dash and body cam footage of an officer killing a black man on Tuesday.
The release of the footage by Chief Kerr Putney comes amid widespread calls for the footage to become public.
The footage also arrives two days after Chief Putney said he would not divulge it because he never said the investigation of Keith Lamont Scott’s death would involve “full transparency.”
The new footage confirms what the chief said Thursday: it does not show “absolute, definitive visual evidence that could confirm that a person is pointing a gun.” This case is another reminder that footage from body and dash cams is not a panacea despite widespread calls for officers across the country to deploy them.
Tuesday’s shooting has sparked violent protests, requiring the North Carolina governor to declare a state of emergency and to call in the National Guard.
Police shot the 43-year-old Scott outside an apartment complex while serving a warrant on somebody else.
The authorities said the 194th black man killed by US police this year had a handgun that he refused to drop.
In a two-minute video the dead man’s wife took with a mobile phone in the moments leading up to the shooting, an officer is overheard yelling, “Drop the gun.” Chief Putney told a news conference on Saturday that police saw marijuana and a weapon in Scott’s car, and said, “uh-oh, this is a safety issue for us and the public.”
Chief Putney’s change of heart to divulge the footage came as the ACLU, NAACP, members of Congress, the victim’s family, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and the public at large have been calling for him to release the police footage. Putney has the power to release the video because a North Carolina law requiring a court order for police agencies to release footage doesn’t take effect until Oct. 1.
The chief noted, however, that not all of the police video is being made public. What is being disclosed is footage from when the encounter started until when Scott was shot, he said.
Here are the links to the videos the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department forwarded to Ars: The 68-second body cam footage shows from when the encounter started to when “officers began rendering first aid.” (We have downloaded the video, and it is at the top of this report and also linked here.)
The second, 140-second video is of dashcam footage that shows an officer shooting Scott.
Here is the best screen shot we could get from the video.
Here is the video:
Meanwhile, North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation has taken over the investigation into the shooting by officer Brentley Vinson, who is black and was not wearing a body cam, despite police policy requiring body cams.
Vinson has been placed on administrative leave. Other officers on the scene, however, did have body cams running. Putney maintains that, under the totality of the circumstances, Scott’s shooting was justified.
When announcing Saturday he would publicize the footage, the chief said that “we are at a stage” where “I can release more information.”
The authorities released a lengthy statement (PDF) late Saturday explaining the shooting incident:
Two plainclothes officers were sitting inside of their unmarked police vehicle preparing to serve an arrest warrant in the parking lot of The Village at College Downs, when a white SUV pulled in and parked beside of them.
The officers observed the driver, later identified as Mr. Keith Lamont Scott, rolling what they believed to be a marijuana “blunt.” Officers did not consider Mr.
Scott’s drug activity to be a priority at the time, and they resumed the warrant operation.
A short time later, Officer Vinson observed Mr.
Scott hold a gun up.
Because of that, the officers had probable cause to arrest him for the drug violation and to further investigate Mr.
Scott being in possession of the gun.
Due to the combination of illegal drugs and the gun Mr.
Scott had in his possession, officers decided to take enforcement action for public safety concerns. Officers departed the immediate area to outfit themselves with marked duty vests and equipment that would clearly identify them as police officers.
Justin Bamberg, the attorney for the dead man’s family, had viewed the police body cam and dash cam footage on Thursday. He said police gave Scott “several commands, he did not aggressively approach them or raise his hands at members of law enforcement at any time.”
Bamberg said that, even with the official footage that Chief Putney allowed him and Scott’s family to view, it was impossible to know whether Scott was brandishing a firearm, as police allege.
The authorities also released a photo of the handgun they say Scott was brandishing:
Here is the image the authorities released of the marijuana recovered on scene: