The police officer who shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott in a Charlotte, North Carolina, parking lot will not face criminal charges, the Mecklenburg County district attorney said Wednesday.
The Sept. 20 shooting, caught on mobile phone video by Lamont’s wife as she pleaded for police not to shoot, triggered weeks of protests that turned violent and rekindled the national debate over police treatment of black Americans.
District Attorney Andrew Murray said that officer Brentley Vinson, also black, “acted lawfully” in his decision to use deadly force on Scott and that criminal charges were not “appropriate.”
In a statement, the Scott family expressed disappointment at the decision. “We are profoundly disappointed in their decision not to criminally charge Officer Brantley Vinson for his actions in taking the life of Keith Lamont Scott,” it said. “All our family wanted was justice and for these members of law enforcement to understand that what they did was wrong.”
Charlotte police were searching for a different man with an outstanding warrant when they encountered Scott in the parking lot of his apartment complex. Officers testified that they saw Scott exit his vehicle with a handgun, and that he was not complying with their orders.
On Wednesday, the district attorney presented evidence recovered at the scene after the 43-year-old Scott was shot dead, including a gun with one bullet in the chamber, an ankle holster, and marijuana.
Scott’s wife, Rakeyia Scott, recorded the moments leading up to Scott’s death on her cellphone, but the video was inconclusive as to whether Scott was holding a gun. “Don’t shoot him. He didn’t do anything,” she said repeatedly.
Officer Vinson shot four rounds at Scott, hitting him three times. Vinson has been on administrative leave since the shooting.
Local authorities initially declined to make the the body -camera and dashcam videos public, triggering outrage in the community. They eventually caved to pressure from rights groups.
Protesters were reportedly readying themselves to respond to the possibility of no charges being brought against Vinson, the Charlotte Observer reported. The Scott family also seemed to anticipate protests. “We respectfully ask that you please keep any protests that may occur peaceful,” they said in a statement.
In the press conference, Murray said the Scott family had been “gracious” in receiving the news and implored the community to remain calm. “I know some are going to be frustrated,” he said.
David Harris, a professor specializing in police behavior at the Pittsburgh School of Law, said the decision by the district attorney doesn’t mean there won’t be federal charges in the case. “It is unlikely to satisfy people who were critical of the police department, because of the ambiguities in the video and the facts,” he said.