Charlotte police release videos of fatal shooting of Keith Scott

Facing growing pressure and surging protests over the police shooting of a black man, police in Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday released two videos and three photographs of what its chief called "the absolute facts" in the death of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott.

The videos, which together run 3 minutes and 18 seconds, were culled from police dashboard and a body cameras. They do not fully answer questions that have grown over Scott's death this week but do present a more detailed picture of his last moments that have been fiercely contested by politicians, activists and his family.

Their release came a day after Scott’s wife released a dramatic cellphone video, in which she pleads for police not to shoot her husband and tells them he is unarmed.

The patrol car dash-cam video shows officers yelling at Scott, who is sitting in his parked white SUV, to “drop the gun!” Scott, wearing bright blue pants and a black shirt, slowly exits, turns around facing his car and seems to calmly take four steps backward before four shots are heard.

He leans forward, then falls back.

A blurry, partially soundless body camera video shows another angle, with Scott standing one moment as officers rush toward him. He then appears on the ground seconds later as officers yell, “Handcuffs!” Another officer shouts for his “equipment” and gloves to “hold the wound.”

Scott moans.

The shaky body-camera video doesn't show the shooting, and neither video clearly shows whether Scott has a gun. At a Saturday afternoon news conference, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said there was "no definitive visual evidence" that Scott had a firearm.

But Putney said additional evidence collected by police, including a loaded gun with Scott’s fingerprints, shows “he absolutely was in possession of a handgun.” The Scott family contends that he was not armed.

Police also released photos of an ankle holster they said Scott was wearing and a marijuana “blunt” they said he had. Putney added that the department’s telling of events is based upon many pieces of evidence, not all of which were released, including witness interviews and additional videos.

"There is no single piece of evidence that proves all the complexities involved in this investigative process," he said.

The body camera that captured video released Saturday was not worn by the officer who shot Scott. Police also released new details of what led officers to encounter Scott, for the first time saying that they became suspicious after seeing him with marijuana.

According to police, two officers in plainclothes were parked at the Village at College Downs, a northeast Charlotte condominium complex, when Scott pulled up next to them in a white SUV. They saw him rolling "what they believed to be a marijuana 'blunt.'”

Officers were initially inclined to ignore the marijuana, though it is illegal in North Carolina, but then one of the officers, Brentley Vinson, saw Scott "hold a gun up," according to a police statement.

The officers left the scene to put on their protective vests. When they came back, they said they still saw Scott with the gun, told him they were police and said several times to drop the gun.

Police said that Scott refused and that Vinson, who is black and has been put on administrative leave, "perceived Mr. Scott’s actions and movements as an imminent physical threat to himself and the other officers" and shot him.

"It was not lawful for [Scott] to possess a firearm. There was a crime he committed, and the gun exacerbated the situation," Putney said.

Putney as recently as Friday had refused to release videos of the shooting, citing his desire to not affect an ongoing investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation. He said Saturday that he was now confident that things were "at a stage that [he] can release additional information without adversely impacting their investigation.”

The city's mayor had called for the videos to be released, as had local politicians and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Putney said the decision was not a reaction to the cellphone video released by Scott’s wife, Rakeyia. In that video she tells police Scott had had a traumatic brain injury and had just taken his medicine. His family has said Scott was reading a book and waiting for his son to get off a school bus.

The police chief also said his decision was not influenced by protests that have taken place daily downtown and by the police headquarters, in which demonstrators have chanted, "Release the tapes!" Those protests continued Saturday evening, and some demonstrators said they were disappointed police did not release all the videos they possessed.

Putney said additional videos would be released after investigations are complete.

Responding to the videos, lawyers for Scott's family members, who had already seen them and called for their release, said they don't prove that Scott had a gun or that he should have been shot. The family has maintained since the shooting Tuesday that Scott was unarmed. Family attorneys also questioned officers' training in de-escalation and use-of-force techniques.

"One of the biggest questions when you look at this dash-cam footage [is] … do those actions, do those precious seconds justify this shooting?" said Justin Bamberg, a family attorney. "He doesn't appear to be acting aggressive toward any law enforcement officers on the scene. He doesn't appear to be making gestures," said Bamberg, who described Scott as "passively stepping back" from police.

Ray Dotch, Scott's brother-in-law, said the family was pleased with the release but expressed continued frustrations.

"We are certainly delighted as a family that the videos are released. Our goal has been from the beginning to get the absolute, unfiltered truth," he said, before adding that the family was left having "far more questions than we have answers."

jaweed.kaleem@latimes.com

Jaweed Kaleem is The Times' national race and justice correspondent. Follow him on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

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UPDATES:

8:15 p.m.: This article has been revised throughout for additional details and for clarity. 

6:05 p.m.: This article has been updated with comments from attorney family Justin Bamberg and Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts.

4:15 pm.: This article has been updated with details from the videos released by police.

3:05 p.m.: This article has been updated with additional details and quotes from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney.

2:00 p.m.: This article has been updated with staff reporting.

1:50 p.m.: This article has been updated with additional information and quotes.

This article was originally published at 1:40 p.m.

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