Charlotte DA: Police Officer ‘Acted Lawfully’ in Shooting Death of Keith Lamont Scott

No charges will be brought against Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer Brentley Vinson in the September shooting death of a man in University City, the man’s attorney said Wednesday.

Keith Lamont Scott, 43, was shot Sept. 20 in a confrontation with officers outside his apartment. Video made at the scene records police calling on him to drop his gun, then four shots are heard.

A gun, an ankle holster and marijuana were found at the scene.

In the aftermath of Scott’s death, Charlotte was roiled by two nights of rioting and nearly a week of street demonstrations. After street violence, dozens of arrests and the death of one man in uptown, Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency.

CMPD was the original agency investigating Scott’s shooting, but the State Bureau of Investigation took over when his wife, Rakeyia Scott, exercised her right under N.C. law to have the independent agency do the inquiry.

Scott, father of seven, the son of a police detective and a former mall security officer, suffered from traumatic brain injury sustained during a motorcycle crash in South Carolina in November 2015.

Scott was a convicted felon who was sentenced in 2005 to seven years in Texas for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

City’s reaction

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police were put on alert for the city’s reaction to the announcement.

All the department’s specialized units, including its riot squad, were mobilized. CMPD’s command center, which was used during the 2012 Democratic Convention and other high-profile events, also was activated.

Officers were notified that they may have to work 12-hour shifts.

Murray met Wednesday morning with Scott’s wife, Rakeyia Scott, and her attorney, Charles Monnett.

Gun is key fact

Robert Taylor, a professor of criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas and a former police officer in Portland, Ore, said clearing Vinson of any criminal wrongdoing in the shooting was an easy call.

A person with a gun under those circumstances, represents a danger to officers and the public, Taylor said.

“This is pretty cut and dry,” he said.

Taylor said CMPD likely intensified public outcry by initially refusing released video footage that captured the confrontation. Given the outrage in recent years about police use of force, Taylor said, it remains baffling why CMPD didn’t make the video public sooner.

CMPD said at the time that it was holding off on releasing the video until the State Bureau of Investigation had interviewed all witnesses.

Now, he said, Charlotte leaders must try to rebuild the fractured relationship between the police department and the African-American community.

“I try to stay positive and remind people that before any great change in this country there has been conflict,” Taylor said.

“There are real feelings of fear in the African-American community. You have to build trust over a long period of time. You just can’t wait until something else happens … The onus is on the police department to take a positive approach and look for what good can come out of this. Where do we go as a community?”

Samuel Walker, a criminal justice professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and nationally-known police accountability expert, said it was always unlikely that Vinson would be criminally charged.

Nationwide, few officers face legal consequences following police shootings, Walker said. Even when they are charged, judges and juries usually exonerate them, he said.

Prosecutors are reluctant to bring cases against officers, Walker said, because they depend on a cooperative relationship with police to do their jobs.

“Chances of increasing the number of prosecutions is very low,” Walker said. “These are people you know. That’s tough. Then they start calculating the odds of getting a conviction. It’s pretty low.”

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SOURCE: MICHAEL GORDON, MARK WASHBURN AND FRED CLASEN-KELLY 
Charlotte Observer