One piece of evidence the Charlotte police should release to the public (instead of video)

Newly released cell phone footage has the potential to fan the flames in the Queen City, so authorities there may find it in their best interests to release some piece of evidence to prevent more riots


According to police, Keith Lamont Scott was armed with a gun which he refused to drop when he was fatally shot by officers earlier this week. The family contends that he was holding nothing but a book. 

Since the shooting, there has been tremendous pressure placed on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department by the public, the press and Scott’s family to release video footage of the deadly confrontation that took place at that apartment complex on Tuesday afternoon. 

Per department policy, the family was granted access to the video.  Citing the fact that releasing police dashcam and body camera footage of that OIS could undermine the ongoing investigation, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said the video will be made public when he believes there is a compelling reason to do so. 

The New York Times has released cell phone video of the incident, taken by Scott’s wife.
The New York Times has released cell phone video of the incident, taken by Scott’s wife. (PoliceOne Image)

Putney is entirely correct in his judgement. Releasing video which is not revelatory or clear could inflame the situation and create further unrest, rather than prevent it. Further, prematurely releasing video evidence merely due to public outcry could set an unsustainable precedent. There are myriad incidents in which the release of a body camera video could totally undermine an ongoing investigation. 

However, there is one piece of evidence that could be revealed to the public that would have little to no impact on the investigation. The department could release a picture of the gun in Scott’s possession. 

Following the fatal shooting of a 13-year-old Ohio boy who pulled a BB gun on police in Columbus (Ohio), earlier this month, authorities quickly produced evidence of the weapon that Police Chief Kim Jacobs said, “looks like a firearm that could kill you.” 

It’s entirely plausible that the release of that image tamped down emotions in Columbus — unlike in Charlotte, there were no riots in Columbus. Holding up an image of Scott’s firearm at a press conference could do a lot to quell tensions tonight and through the weekend, when rioters tend to come out in greater force. 

Video is already out there
The New York Times has released cell phone video of the incident, taken by Scott’s wife. The shooting is not captured on video, but the audio recording is compelling. 

An officer can be clearly heard repeatedly ordering Scott to “Drop the gun! …Drop the f*cking gun!” while Scott’s wife encourages him to get out of the car. 

“You better not shoot him!” she said several times before shots rang out.

Close examination of that video does not reveal whether or not a gun lies beside him as Scott lies face down in the street. There’s simply no way to know from that footage whether or not Scott was armed or posed a deadly threat to officers. 

This is likely to also be the case in the video captured by cameras mounted to the bodies of the involved officers and on the dashboards of their squad cars. After seeing the police video, the family’s own attorneys even said he couldn’t tell whether or not Scott was holding a gun. 

Last night’s demonstrations in Charlotte were peaceful, in stark contrast to the two previous nights of violence and criminal activity. This was likely due to the presence of the National Guard, who stood on the front lines while local police remained largely invisible, standing at the ready in nearby staging areas. 

Surely, this newly released cell phone footage has the potential to fan the flames once again in the Queen City. Authorities there may find it in their best interests to release something to prevent more riots. 

A picture is worth a thousand words. A picture of the gun the subject had in his hand at the time of this incident could be worth many thousands of dollars in property damage, and untold suffering of an already weary city. 

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