Charlotte Police Killing of a 43-Year-Old Black Father of 7, Sparks days of Protest
On Tuesday September 20, 2016, Charlotte (North Carolina) Police shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott, a 43-year-old black man who witnesses say was reading a book while waiting for his children. Eyewitness accounts conflict with police reports that allege Mr. Scott exited his vehicle still holding a handgun.
Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney explains the officers who encountered Scott were searching for a different suspect wanted for questioning in an unrelated incident. Scott was apparently mistaken for that person. Chief Putney in describing the officers’ account, claims Scott was instructed to drop his gun, but exited the vehicle still holding the gun. According to Putney, Scott was then killed because ‘he posed a potential threat.’
With the spotlight on police nationwide for lack of transparency and demands for accountability, Putney’s explanation of Scott posing a ‘potential threat’ may not pass the publicly accepted threshold for necessary lethal force. Exacerbating tensions in the Charlotte community is the unwillingness of North Carolina officials to uphold basic standards of transparency. Despite city officials being in possession of both dashboard camera and body camera footage, authorities refuse to release these materials to the public.
As a result of perceived injustice and excessive force causing the death of an innocent man lawfully possessing a firearm in an OPEN CARRY* state, citizens of Charlotte have taken to the streets of the downtown (referred to as Uptown by Charlotteans) area. Protestors have made several demands, including:
• Justice for the victim and the victim’s family
• Accountability from the officers involved
• Transparency – specifically, release of all footage related to the killing of Keith Scott
Lyric, Keith Scott’s daughter posted a highly emotional video to Facebook Live from the scene of her father’s killing. The desperation in her voice is evident as the realization of her father death sets in.
Many watching images of violence or property destruction believe those actions run contrary to the cause of seeking justice. It is important to note that while the destruction of property is disrupting, it is generally not life threatening. The laws of the U.S. deem life of higher value than property. A few broken windows and torn down signage should not be the focus of the Charlotte protest. Our focus should be on Keith Scott, and how he represents one of (at least) 791 deaths caused by police this calendar year.
Without access to the footage for analysis, it remains unclear whether the officers involved perceived a reasonable threat or hastily took Mr. Scott’s life due to poor judgment. Until more information is released (audio/video footage), citizens of Charlotte will continue to exert their First Amendment right to assemble and petition their government for redress.
*Open Carry: States with the most relaxed gun laws allow citizens to not only carry a firearm on their person, but also to carry those firearms outside of garments visible to the public.
*Thumbnail Photo credit: Brian Blanco/Getty Images