The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officer who shot and killed an African-American man near his north Charlotte home will not face criminal charges, the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s office announced Wednesday.
The decision not to charge Officer Brentley Vinson came after investigations by both local authorities and the State Bureau of Investigation.
“He acted lawfully,” said Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray. He said the decision was unanimous among 15 “career prosecutors” he gathered to advise on the case.
The decision ends another chapter in an emotional story that has shaken Charlotte to its core and thrust the city into the national conversation about race, policing and economic opportunity.
Keith Lamont Scott, 43, was sitting in his car waiting for his child to get off the school bus when CMPD officers pulled into the parking lot of his apartment complex, preparing to serve a warrant in an unrelated case.
Officers reported that they saw Scott with marijuana and a handgun. They then approached the car, banging on the windows and ordering him to exit, videos from the scene show. His wife yelled at the officers that he had suffered from a traumatic brain injury and had just taken his medicine. Videos show Scott exiting the vehicle and taking several slow steps backward before he is shot several times. It is inconclusive in the videos whether he is holding a gun, as officers reported.
CMDP reported that Vinson, who is also black, fired the fatal shots.
Scott’s family insisted he was unarmed, and that he was holding a book. That discrepancy fueled immediate protests, which turned violent several times on I-85 and Uptown.
[Agenda story: Protests turned chaotic and violent Uptown on Wednesday night]
Charlotte police had anticipated Wednesday’s decision and made plans to contain another round of protests.
[Agenda story: Charlotte police are bracing for another round of protests]
As information trickled out Wednesday, the Charlotte Uprising protest group began to plan demonstrations for the afternoon. “No justice, no peace,” they wrote on Facebook.
In a Wednesday morning press conference, District Attorney Murray outlined his office’s decision in detail and offered new details on what happened the afternoon of September 20.
He cited and showed new footage from a security camera at a nearby 7-Eleven that he said showed a bulge in his pant leg consistent with a ankle holster and gun, which Murray said investigators recovered from the scene. The gun was found with the safety off, cocked and with a bullet in the chamber, Murray said.
Murray also cited multiple officer reports that Scott was holding a gun when he exited his vehicle, though he recognized that none of the videos from the scene clearly show his hands. He did not raise the gun, however.
He said the officers described Scott as in a “trance-like state,” which Murray said is consistent with the side effects of the medicine he took for the brain injury. Murray said other side effects include aggression and behavior abnormalities.
Murray also played video from an investigative interview with Vinson. Vinson said he was the only one who had a clear shot with no risk of hitting another officer. He said that he felt that if he didn’t do something right away, either he or his fellow officers would be shot.
Murray said investigators did not find a book in the front or back seats of Scott’s vehicle.