Footage of Charlotte police shooting does little to ease doubts

Footage of Charlotte police shooting does little to ease doubts

Dramatic video has been released by Charlotte police that shows officers with guns drawn surrounding a black man with his hands at his side before shots are fired and he buckles and falls.

But it is unclear if there was anything in the man's hands in the footage, which has done little to satisfy his relatives.

The police shooting of Keith Scott in the North Carolina city was released amid days of protests, including an outpouring by hundreds demanding that the public could see the video.

Police said Mr Scott, 43, had a gun, though some residents have said he was unarmed.

In the dashboard camera video, Mr Scott could be seen slowly backing away from his SUV with his hands down, and it is not apparent if he is holding anything. Four shots are heard and he falls to the ground.

Police also released photos of a handgun from the scene, saying it was loaded and contained Mr Scott's DNA and fingerprints. They also said Mr Scott had marijuana.

The dashboard camera footage starts with a police car pulling up as two officers point their guns at Mr Scott, who is inside the SUV with the doors closed and windows rolled up. Mr Scott gets out and starts walking backwards before shots are fired.

From a different angle, newly-released police body camera footage shows an officer approach with his gun drawn and another officer already pointing his gun at Mr Scott. When Mr Scott comes into view, his hands are at his side and he is standing beside his SUV.

The body camera footage does not show the moment shots are fired and Mr Scott is next seen on the ground.

A lawyer for Scott's family, Justin Bamberg, said the footage left more questions unanswered than it provided clarity.

"One of the biggest questions is, do those actions, do those precious seconds, justify this shooting?" he said.

Mr Scott's brother-in-law Ray Dotch objected to reporters' questions about Mr Scott's background, saying he should not have to "humanise him in order for him to be treated fairly".

"What we know and what you should know about him is that he was an American citizen who deserved better," he said.

Before releasing the footage, police chief Kerr Putney said he received assurances from the State Bureau of Investigation that making it public would not affect the state's independent probe of the shooting.

Asked whether he expected the footage to calm protesters, Mr Putney said: "The footage itself will not create in anyone's mind absolute certainty as to what this case represents and what the outcome should be.

"The footage only supports all of the other information" such as physical evidence and statements from witnesses and officers.

Mr Putney said that his officers did not break the law but noted the state investigation continued.

"Officers are absolutely not being charged by me at this point, but again, there's another investigation ongoing," he said.

Mr Putney said Mr Scott was "absolutely in possession of a handgun".

A police narrative released along with the video gives the most complete account yet of what brought Mr Scott to their attention.

Two plainclothes officers in an unmarked vehicle were preparing to serve a warrant on someone else when Mr Scott parked next to them, according to the document.

The officers saw Mr Scott rolling a marijuana cigar, or blunt, though they did not consider it a priority at first, it said. But then one of the officers saw him hold up a gun, the document states.

"Due to the combination of illegal drugs and the gun Mr Scott had in his possession, officers decided to take enforcement action for public safety concerns," the document said.

The narrative says Mr Scott did not respond to repeated commands to drop his weapon.

Those commands are not heard in the body camera video, which does not have audible sound until after the shooting.

Amid anxiety and unease over the shooting, demonstrations in Charlotte have gone from violent to peaceful, although demands to see the police video remained a chief concern of protesters.

Footage of Charlotte police shooting does little to ease doubts

Before the release, hundreds massed outside at the Charlotte police department building on Saturday afternoon chanting the name "Keith Scott". They also chanted "No tapes, no peace" and raised signs including one reading "Stop Killing The Black People".

The city has been on edge ever since Scott's shooting death. The demonstrations reached a violent crescendo on Wednesday before the National Guard was called in a day later to maintain order.

Forty-four people were arrested after Wednesday's protests and one protester who was shot died in hospital on Thursday. City officials said police did not shoot 26-year-old Justin Carr, and a suspect was arrested.

The next two nights of protests were free of property damage and violence, with organisers stressing a message of peace at the end of the week.

Charlotte is the latest US city to be shaken by protests and recriminations over the death of a black man at the hands of police, a list that includes Baltimore, Milwaukee, Chicago, New York and Ferguson, Missouri.

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