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.”
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.
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)
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.”
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.