In the shaky video she shot on her cellphone, Rakeyia Scott can be heard trying to save her husband’s life.
“Don’t shoot him!” she shouts to the Charlotte, N.C., police officers who surrounded her husband this week in the parking lot of a condominium complex. “He has no weapon.”
As police officers scream at 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott — “Drop the gun! Drop the gun!” — his wife tells them: “He doesn’t have a gun.”
Soon four shots can be heard, followed by Rakeyia Scott’s screams.
“Did you shoot him? Did you shoot him? Did you shoot him?” she screams as she walks closer to the scene, still recording with her phone. “He better not be dead, he better not be … dead.”
Soon, she was using the phone to call 911, her husband’s body splayed on the ground.
Attorneys for the Scott family on Friday released the first publicly available video of Tuesday’s shooting as Charlotte continued to reel from days of protests that have focused, in part, on city officials’ refusal to release police footage of the incident.
“Release the tapes!” has become a familiar refrain on Charlotte’s streets. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has called for an end to “the rioting” in Charlotte, while Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton zeroed in on the video, calling for release of the footage “without delay.”
The debate in Charlotte has once again highlighted the uneven level of transparency that exists in cases of police shootings across the U.S.
Days earlier, police in Tulsa, Okla., had quickly allowed the public to see disturbing video of another line-of-duty shooting, this one involving a white police officer and a black motorist who died with his hands in the air.
Many cities do not have fixed policies about when to release crucial footage of a police shooting, and such killings frequently turn into chaotic political struggles. In many cases, family members, activists and social media users turn up the pressure on local officials, as happened Friday in Charlotte, by releasing their own footage.
The public now may have media tools as good as or better than those of the police. Encounters with police are sometimes now live-streamed as they happen, a tactic clearly intended to influence the outcome in real time.
After a shooting, members of the public can release their own footage when they believe that police have not described an incident truthfully.
Such pressure is unusual for police investigators, who in other kinds of cases are typically allowed to hold off on releasing video recordings of an incident. The reasons are many. A video of a crime, for example, can often be used to test whether a suspect is lying or a witness is remembering an incident accurately.
Indeed, release of a video may cause confusion about whether a witness is describing what they saw during a crime or what they saw on the video.
Charlotte police Chief Kerr Putney has said release of the official video would be counterproductive and could potentially compromise the integrity of the investigation — though in a small concession, he did permit Keith Scott’s family to view it.
“It’s not that I want to hide anything,” Putney said at a news conference Friday morning. “I want to be more thoughtful and deliberate. If I were to put it out indiscriminately and it doesn’t give you good context, it can inflame the situation, exacerbate backlash, increase distrust.”
A man stands in front of a line of police officers on a roadway in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday night during a protest that broke out after police shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott, 43, in the parking lot of a condominium complex. Protests continued for days.(Jeff Siner / Charlotte Observer)
A protester uses milk to wash tear gas from her eyes after police used the gas to clear demonstrators who were blocking Interstate 277 in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday.(Dillon Deaton / For The Times)
Protesters raise their hands as they march through downtown Charlotte, N.C., to protest the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.(Dillon Deaton / For The Times)
Police say they found this gun holster on Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, N.C.(Charlotte Police Department)
A handgun that police say was in Keith Lamont Scott’s possession.(Charlotte Police Department)
A marijuana blunt police said they recovered after fatally shooting Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, N.C. Police said officers became suspicious of Scott after they saw him rolling the blunt in his car and then saw him “hold a gun up.”(Charlotte Police Department)
Police use pepper spray and tear gas to force protesters off Interstate 277 on Thursday.(Dillon Deaton / For The Times)
A protester kneels after police used tear gas to clear demonstrators on the Interstate in Charlotte.(Dillon Deaton / For The Times)
Protesters gather outside a government building in downtown Charlotte on Thursday.(Dillon Deaton / For The Times)
A protester with a biblical message.(Sean Rayford / Getty Images)
As curfew in Charlotte approached Thursday night, demonstrators voiced their views loudly.(Sean Rayford / Getty Images)
Police Capt. Mike Campagna talks with a demonstrator.(Sean Rayford / Getty Images)
Demonstrators march in Charlotte on Thursday.(Sean Rayford / Getty Images)
Members of the North Carolina National Guard stand guard outside the Omni Hotel in downtown Charlotte on Thursday.(Gerry Broome / Associated Press)
Police stand at the ready in Charlotte on Thursday.(Jeff Siner / Charlotte Observer)
Candles surround the spot where a protester was fatally shot in Charlotte, N.C.(Veasey Conway / European Pressphoto Agency)
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney speaks during a news conference at department headquarters on Thursday.(John D. Simmons / Charlotte Observer)
Police and protesters carry a seriously wounded person into the parking area of the Omni Hotel in downtown Charlotte on Wednesday.(Brian Blanco / Getty Images)
A protester faces off with riot police on Wednesday.(Brian Blanco / Getty Images)
A policeman and a protester face to face.(Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images)
A protester in downtown Charlotte.(Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images)
Police fire tear gas as protesters converge in downtown Charlotte, N.C., the day after the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.(Gerry Broome / Associated Press)
Demonstrators take to the streets Wednesday to protest the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, N.C.(Chuck Burton / Associated Press)
A protester sits near a pool of blood after a man was shot during a demonstration over the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, N.C. The man, Justin Carr, later died at a local hospital, and police said they arrested and charged a man with with the shooting.(Chuck Burton / Associated Press)
Demonstrators protest the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, N.C.(Chuck Burton / Associated Press)
Police fire tear gas at protesters in downtown Charlotte, N.C., the day after the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.
(Gerry Broome / Associated Press)
Protesters throw chairs at a restaurant during a demonstration against the use of deadly force by police in Charlotte, N.C.(Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters march to demonstrate agasint the fatal police shooting of Keith Scott in Charlotte, N.C.(Brian Blanco / Getty Images)
Police face off with protestors on Interstate 85 in Charlotte, N.C., during demonstrations after a man was shot to death by police.(Sean Rayford / Getty Images)
Protesters clash with police in Charlotte, N.C., in an overnight demonstration that broke out after Keith Lamont Scott was fatally shot by an officer.(Jeff Siner / Charlotte Observer)
A protestor kicks a tear gas canister fired by police in Charlotte, N.C.(Jeff Siner / Charlotte Observer)
Protestors surround a police vehicle in Charlotte, N.C.(Jeff Siner / Charlotte Observer)
Protestors march down a street in the early hours of Wednesday. The protests began after 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed by police in northeast Charlotte, N.C.(Sean Rayford / Getty Images)
A police officer in riot gear walks past a fire on Interstate 85 in Charlotte, N.C.(Sean Rayford / Getty Images)
A protestor walks alongside police officers in Charlotte.(Jeff Siner / Charlotte Observer)
Police officers stand in a haze of tear gas on Old Concord Road in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday night. Protests broke out after police shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott in the parking lot of the Village at College Downs condominium complex Tuesday afternoon.(Jeff Siner / Charlotte Observer)
Protestors hold up their arms in the air in front of a police line early Wednesday morning in Charlotte.(Jeff Siner / The Charlotte Observer)
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts said she believes the tape should be made public, though not necessarily right now.
“I lean towards transparency in everything our city does,” Roberts said Friday, but she emphasized that the question is one of timing.
“I know there’s a delicate balance when there’s an ongoing investigation. If one piece is released early, it can jeopardize the integrity of the investigation,” she said. “If you have already seen something on the Internet, it can cloud your memory, it can alter what you think you saw.”
In July, North Carolina lawmakers passed a law that prohibits the release of footage taken by law enforcement without a court order. That law does not go into effect until Oct. 1, however.
Scott’s fatal encounter with the police began Tuesday afternoon when officers confronted him outside a Charlotte condominium complex. Police say Brentley Vinson, a 26-year-old black officer, was looking for a suspect with an outstanding warrant — not Scott — and approached Scott shortly before 4 p.m.
According to the police account, Scott stepped out of the truck with a gun, and then got back in the truck. Police said that they told Scott to drop the gun but that he got back out of the vehicle with the weapon and “posed an imminent deadly threat.”
Scott’s family has insisted he was holding not a gun, but a book.
Neither the official video, as the police describe it, nor Scott’s wife’s cellphone footage appear to answer the question definitively. Putney has said that while the police video footage doesn’t offer “absolute definitive visual evidence” that would confirm Scott was pointing a gun, the “totality of all other evidence” supported the police account of his death.
Rakeyia Scott’s cellphone footage, which is shaky and taken for the most part from behind police vehicles, also does not clearly show the moment when her husband was shot by police. In the video, Rakeyia Scott tells the officers he has a “TBI,” a traumatic brain injury.
“He’s not going to do anything to you guys. He just took his medicine.”
In the video, Rakeyia Scott also directs orders to her husband as officers move in, with one of them asking for a baton.
“Keith, don’t let them break the windows!” she says, her voice quivering.
“Come on out the car,” she insists. “Keith, don’t do it!”
“Keith, get out the car,” she says again, her voice rising. “Keith, Keith, Keith — don’t you do it!”
After the shots are fired, Scott is seen splayed on the ground, not moving, and surrounded by officers. His wife then calls 911.
On Friday, Putney pushed back against expectations that the police footage of Scott’s death “will be a panacea.”
“I can tell you that will not be the case,” he said, adding that investigators are still interviewing witnesses and reviewing evidence. “The process is painstakingly slow sometimes. It’s going to take them some time to piece together everything that happened.”
Kaleem reported from Charlotte, Jarvie, a special correspondent, from Atlanta, and Pearce from Los Angeles.
5:54 p.m.: This article was updated throughout.
1:05 p.m.: This article was updated with information on the arrest of a man in the fatal shooting of a black demonstrator in Charlotte, N.C., and additional comments from the city’s police chief, Kerr Putney, and an attorney for the Scott family.
11:50 a.m.: This article was updated with details of the video.
This article was originally published at 10:55 a.m.