After days of organized protests throughout the city, on Saturday Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina police released bodycam and dashcam footage of the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott that occurred on Tuesday. At a press conference announcing the footage Saturday, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney repeatedly defended the actions of his officers, saying that as some were out serving a warrant, they observed cannabis and a handgun in Scott's car and "focused their attention" on him. The CMPD has a self-admitted troubling and racialized history with racial disparities in the enforcement of drug laws.
Putney repeatedly referred to Scott's possession of the cannabis and a gun as a public safety crime that required the legitimate attention of police. Chief Putney said that no officers had been charged with any wrongdoing, and that he had been prevented from releasing the video earlier by an independent investigation into the case by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.
The body camera footage, which does not have sound for the fist 25 seconds, does not clearly show Scott doing anything at all before he is shot. The footage is not from Brentley Vinson, the officer who shot Scott, as he was not wearing a bodycam. In the first 25 seconds of the video, the officer wearing the bodycam is seen communicating with other officers at the scene and hitting a baton against the side of Scott's car. After Scott is shot, officers can be heard yelling "Man down!" and directing other officers to handcuff Scott.
In two different dashcam videos, Scott is shown getting out of his car and slowly walking, turning his head to look around. He is not doing anything at all except walking backwards slowly up until the moment he is shot. No gun is visible at all in any of the videos.
A cell phone video shot by Rakeyia Scott, Keith's wife, was released by the family Friday, though it does not show the shooting itself. Chief Putney said that the police videos do not clearly show a gun in Scott's hand, but said that he "absolutely" had a gun. Scott's family has repeatedly protested that he does not own a gun and does not carry one, and was reading a book in his car waiting for his son.
Chief Putney repeatedly said during the press conference that he would not "try the case publicly," but many on social media accused him of subtly doing just that by claiming multiple times that officers' suspicions had been aroused by the presence of cannabis.
If Scott did have a gun, North Carolina is an open carry state, though both federal and North Carolina state law prohibit the sale of firearms to "unlawful user[s]" of cannabis. Additionally, the maximum punishment for possession of a half ounce of cannabis or less in North Carolina is a $200 fine, all of which call into question the official story of this event.
Sam Stecklow is the Weekend Editor for Fusion.