Officer Brentley Vinson won’t face criminal charges for the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott outside an apartment complex in Charlotte, which set off a week of protests in the North Carolina city in September.
In a 40-minute news conference on Wednesday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray explained step-by-step how he and 15 other prosecutors determined Officer Vinson, who is black, "acted lawfully" when he was said to have shot Mr. Scott, who is also black. Mr. Murray also encouraged the community to review his detailed findings before they choose to take to the streets.
"The community should read the report. Digest the report. Please do not act viscerally on news snippets," Murray said. "I know that some out there are going to be frustrated. I want everyone in this community to know that we meticulously, thoroughly reviewed all of the evidence in this case, made sure it was credible evidence, in order to make the decision that we made today."
The death of Scott was one of several high-profile shootings of black men that led to protests and questions of the use of police force across the country. While both Vinson and Scott are black, the incident cut deep into a city that has emerged as a national banking hub, but whose black community has had a conflicted relationship with police. While the Scott family came out against the prosecution’s determination Wednesday, both sides have called on the public to gather information before they choose to act.
"While we understand that many in the Charlotte area share our frustration and pain, we ask that everyone work together to fix the system that allowed this tragedy to happen in the first place," the Scott family said in a statement released through their attorneys, as reported by The Washington Post. "All our family wanted was justice and for these members of law enforcement to understand that what they did was wrong."
Immediately following the shooting in September, protesters took to the streets of downtown Charlotte, looting stores near the scene, and causing millions of dollars in damage as well as two dozen injuries to police officers and others, including one fatal shooting.
While the protests died down, questions lingered about whether Scott was armed when he was shot.
In a cellphone video Scott’s wife, Rakeyia Scott, captured of the shooting and uploaded to social media immediately afterward, she can be heard shouting to police that her husband "doesn’t have a gun." She repeatedly demands officers not shoot before a burst of gunfire can be heard.
The family has since maintained Scott was not armed at the time.
But in the news conference Wednesday, Murray, the prosecutor, said the prosecution believes Scott was carrying a handgun. Murray showed a surveillance video from a store near the site of the shooting, showing the outline of what appeared to be a gun holstered to Scott’s ankle. Murray also said Scott’s DNA was found on a .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun recovered at the scene.
"There’s been some speculation in the community regarding whether Mr. Scott was armed," Murray said, as the Post reported. "All of the credible and available evidence suggests that he was, in fact, armed."
In a news conference, Charles Monnett, an attorney for the family, suggested they may still seek a civil lawsuit against the police department or the city for the shooting, according to the Post.
"We look forward to someday obtaining justice for Keith and his family," he said.
This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.