Mecklenburg County, North Carolina District Attorney Andrew Murray announced today that there will be no charges filed against Officer Brentley Vinson stemming from the shooting death of Keith Scott on September 20.
Scott was shot during a confrontation with CMPD officers serving a warrant unrelated to Mr. Scott at the time. Scott’s family initially claimed he was reading a book. That story started to unravel when photos emerged of a .380 pistol at the scene of the crime. The D.A. didn’t find enough evidence to pursue a conviction. Indeed, the Charlotte Observer’s article on the story debunks the, shall we say “fake news” that surfaced in the wake of the shooting:
“I’m extremely convinced that Mr. Vinson’s use of deadly force was lawful,” Murray said.
Evidence in the case shows that Scott stepped out of his SUV with a gun in his hand, Murray said, and ignored at least 10 commands from the five officers on the scene to drop it.
Murray said that Scott bought the gun – a Colt .380 semi-automatic that had been stolen in Gaston County – 18 days before the confrontation for $100. One bullet was found in the chamber of the cocked gun, the safety was off and Murray said Scott’s DNA was found on the grip and slide.
The person who sold the gun to Scott admitted to doing so when confronted by state and federal law enforcement, according to a prosecutor’s report on the shooting. “The seller said that Scott asked him to find him a weapon because he was having problems with his wife and her family, specifically his nephew,” the report said.
Murray said that speculation in the community that Scott was unarmed – initial reports from a family member on Facebook said he was holding a book – were untrue.
“A reading book was not found in the front or back seats of Mr. Scott’s SUV,” Murray said.
Officer Vinson’s gun was examined after the shooting and four bullets were missing, Murray said. Analysts determined that the four shell casings found on the scene were fired from Vinson’s weapon. Guns taken from the other officers at the scene had not been fired, he said.
People who claimed on social media that they had seen the shooting and Scott was unarmed were later found to be in error – three people who’d made the claim told State Bureau of Investigation agents in interviews that they hadn’t actually seen the shooting.
Unfortunately, the debunking of these claims came a bit too late for many residents. The shooting sparked protests, led by activists from Black Lives Matter, over what they characterized as “institutional racism.” (Note: the officer involved in the shooting, Brentley Vinson, is African-American). The protests turned into riots that caused $4.5 million in damage to the city of Charlotte.
The UK’s Guardian newspaper reported that District Attorney Murray “pleaded with those angered by his decision to read the findings of state investigators.” Murray assured the public that “I would not hesitate to prosecute an officer who, the evidence showed, had acted outside the law.”