Pressure Rises for Charlotte Police to Release Shooting Video

September 24, 2016, 3:50 PM UTC
People gather at the intersection of Trade and Tryon Streets in uptown Charlotte, NC to protest the police shooting of Keith Scott, in Charlotte
People gather at the intersection of Trade and Tryon Streets in uptown Charlotte, NC to protest the police shooting of Keith Scott, in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Miczek - RTSOV5S
Jason Miczek — Reuters

Police in Charlotte, North Carolina were under mounting pressure on Saturday to make public video of the fatal police shooting of a black man that sparked unrest this week, after a fourth night of protests unfolded peacefully under the watch of National Guard troops.

The shooting on Tuesday of Keith Scott, a 43-year-old father of seven, was one of a series of deadly incidents across the country in recent years that has raised questions about use of force by U.S. law enforcement against African-Americans and other minorities.

The circumstances of Scott’s shooting, including whether Scott was brandishing a gun as police have said, have come under intense scrutiny that increased when the man’s family on Friday released a cellphone video of the violent encounter.

Even so, police have refused to release video from a police dashboard camera and body camera of the incident, saying its immediate release could compromise an investigation.

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Hundreds of protesters wound through the streets of Charlotte on Friday night and early Saturday morning under the eye of armed National Guard troops, led by demonstrators holding a banner calling on police to “release the tapes.” There were no violent confrontations like those in prior nights, and police did not enforce a midnight curfew.

Another demonstration was scheduled in Charlotte on Saturday afternoon, with protesters expected to renew their calls for the release of the police video.

A two-minute video, recorded by Scott’s wife Rakeyia and released to U.S. media outlets on Friday, showed the events leading up to the shooting, but not the shooting itself. In the video, the woman can be heard pleading with officers to hold fire as they confronted her husband in a parked car outside a Charlotte apartment complex.

Scott’s wife used her cellphone camera when she saw police confronting her husband in a parked car outside a Charlotte apartment complex. She can be heard telling officers “Don’t shoot him! He has no weapon” as they yell at Scott, “Drop the gun!”

Scott’s wife also can be heard shouting “Keith, Keith, don’t do it,” although it is not clear whether she is directing her comments to her husband or police. The footage captures the sound of four shots but does not show Scott being hit.

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It is also not clear from the footage whether he is in possession of a gun as police have stated.

The family originally contended Scott was carrying a book, not a gun. But after viewing the police video on Thursday, the family concluded it was “impossible to discern” what, if anything, Scott was carrying, an attorney representing the family said.

Scott, who was sitting in a parked car when confronted by police, was shot by Officer Brentley Vinson, who has been placed on paid administrative leave. Vinson is also black.

Scott’s family, which has been permitted to see the police video, the protesters and even Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton have called for its release.

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Clinton on Friday had announced plans to go to Charlotte on Sunday, but postponed the visit for a week after Charlotte Mayor Roberts publicly asked her to delay it.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney has said that the unreleased video supported the police version of events. He told reporters on Friday that releasing it now could harm the investigation, which the state is leading.

Putney said that he would eventually agree to the release of the video, adding, “It’s a matter of when and a matter of sequence.”

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