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Video shows deadly encounter between Charlotte police, black man

Published Sep. 24, 2016

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A cellphone camera video made by the wife of Keith Lamont Scott as he was fatally shot by police here shows the moments before and after the shooting, including the wife's pleas to her husband to get out of his truck and her pleas to the officers not to shoot him.

But the video, which was given to the New York Times by lawyers for the family Friday, does not include a view of the shooting itself. Nor does it answer the crucial question of whether Scott had a gun, as the police have maintained.

One of the lawyers, Justin Bamberg who is representing the family along with Eduardo Curry, said in an interview Friday that the video did not prove whether the shooting was justified or not. Rather, he said, it offered "another vantage point" of the shooting. He said he hoped the Police Department would release its own videos of the shooting, as protesters have been demanding since Scott was killed Tuesday afternoon.

City officials have refused to release the police video of the shooting, saying they do not want to impede their investigation.

The lawyers said the cellphone video was shot by Rakeyia Scott, Scott's wife, Tuesday afternoon. Scott had parked his truck in a visitor's space in their apartment complex, where he often waited for one of his children to return home on a bus. The police were there to serve a warrant on someone else.

The lawyers said Rakeyia Scott had come out of the apartment with a cellphone charger for her husband and noticed that police officers were around the truck.

The video, more than two minutes long, begins with shaking images of grass and the voice, apparently that of an officer, shouting, "Hands up!"

It shows a view of Keith Scott's white pickup truck, and multiple police officers around it. Keith Scott is not visible.

Immediately, Rakeyia Scott says, "Don't shoot him," and begins walking closer to the officers and Keith Scott's vehicle. "Don't shoot him. He has no weapon. He has no weapon. Don't shoot him."

An officer can then be heard yelling: "Gun. Gun. Drop the gun. Drop the f- - - - - - gun," at the same time that another police vehicle, lights flashing, turns in front of the camera.

"Don't shoot him, don't shoot him," Rakeyia Scott pleads, her voice getting louder and more anxious. "He didn't do anything."

By this time, 20 seconds into the video, Rakeyia Scott is standing behind two police cars and walking closer and closer to the scene.

"He doesn't have a gun," she says. "He has a TBI" — an abbreviation for the traumatic brain injury the lawyers said Keith Scott sustained in a motorcycle accident in November 2015. "He's not going to do anything to you guys. He just took his medicine."

"Drop the gun," an officer screams as the wife tries to explain her husband's condition. "Let me get a f- - - - - - baton over here."

"Keith don't let them break the windows. Come up out the car," Scott says, as the video shows an officer approaching the truck

"Drop the gun," an officer shouts again.

"Keith, don't do it," Rakeyia Scott shouts, as the video shows her backing away a bit and panning to the ground. "Keith, get out of the car. Keith, Keith. Don't you do it. Don't you do it, Keith."

Bamberg said that Rakeyia Scott was trying, in those statements, to "get him to stand still" after he eventually got out of the vehicle.

Fifty seconds into the video, gunshots ring out.

"Did you shoot him? Did you shoot him?" Scott shouts, her voice getting louder with each second. "Did you shoot him? He better not be f- - - - - - dead."

The video then shows Keith Scott lying on the ground with officers around him.

Bamberg said of the video: "Right now we don't have enough facts to say whether this shooting was justified or unjustified. That's what we're trying to find out.

"One reason why this video is being released," he said, "is we wanted to give the city and Police Department the opportunity to do the right thing and release the videos they have available that clarify the situation a bit, and could potentially answer some of the outstanding questions."

Chief Kerr Putney of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police has brushed aside demands by activists, community leaders and the media to make the police videos public. "We release it when we believe there is a compelling reason," he said.

Putney said that eyewitness accounts and other evidence suggested that Keith Scott had been holding a pistol when he was shot and that a weapon had been found at the scene. But, he also said the police videos may leave more questions.

"The video does not give me absolute, definitive visual evidence that would confirm that a person is pointing a gun," Putney said.

Until they viewed the police videos Thursday afternoon, Scott's relatives had said they were uncertain whether they should be released to the public, according to Bamberg.

While the family members differed with the police on some major points about the videos, they seemed to be in agreement with Putney on one aspect. "It is impossible to discern from the videos what, if anything, Scott is holding in his hands," they said in a statement.

Bamberg and Curry reiterated this point in an interview Friday.

They also described the two police videos — one a dash-cam video and the other a body-camera video — that the police allowed the lawyers and family members to view this week. The body-camera video, Bamberg said, provides few significant details of the shooting. But he said the dash-cam video showed two officers taking up positions behind a pickup truck and yelling commands at Scott, who was inside his vehicle at the time.

The video, the lawyers said, appeared to show that the driver's side front window was rolled up.

The video, Bamberg said, then shows Keith Scott stepping out of the vehicle, his hands by his sides, with his right hand empty and "some type of object" in his left hand. "It's impossible to make out what it is," the lawyer said.

"He doesn't make any dramatic movements," Bamberg said. He also said Scott seemed "confused."

Scott takes a couple of steps forward "in a nonaggressive manner," the lawyer said, and then a step back. Then shots are fired.

At a news conference on Friday, Charlotte officials repeatedly said that the police videos should not be released without a full report.

"If I were to put it out indiscriminately, and it doesn't give you good context, it can inflame the situation and make it even worse," Putney said. "It will exacerbate the backlash. It will increase the distrust. So that is where discernment, judgment and reasonableness have to come in."

In an interview that aired Friday on ABC's Good Morning America, President Barack Obama spoke in general terms about the national debate over police conduct.

"I think it's important to separate out the pervasive sense of frustration among a lot of African-Americans about shootings of people, and the sense that justice is not always colorblind," Obama said.

The president cautioned, however, that illegal behavior during protests was "not going to advance the cause."

"In Charlotte," he said, "my hope is that in the days to come, that people in the community pull together and say, 'How do we do this the right way?' "