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Charlotte police release video of the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott — but questions and doubts remain. The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery brings us the latest from Charlotte, North Carolina.
- Wesley Lowery National reporter, The Washington Post
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Concerns over cybersecurity in the U.S. are growing following the Yahoo! breach and ahead of the November election. We'll take a look at that in just a few moments. But first, let's get an update from Charlotte, North Carolina. The city has been rocked by the fatal police shooting last week of Keith Lamont Scott. Facing pressure from protestors, over the weekend, Charlotte police released dashboard and body camera footage of the shooting.
MS. DIANE REHMIt still leaves us with many questions. Here to give us the latest from Charlotte is Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post. Good morning to you, Wesley. Thank you for joining us. And give us an update on exactly what happened in Charlotte after the police footage was released. What did we learn from it?
MR. WESLEY LOWERYOf course, thanks so much for having me, Diane. And so, you know, people in Charlotte still have a lot of questions about this shooting and it's important to remember the shooting came just a few days after another fatal police shooting, that one in Tulsa, Oklahoma, of Terence Crutcher and so this was the second in a series of big, national shootings that people have been talking about and thinking about.
MR. WESLEY LOWERYIn this shooting, there was the release of both the dashboard camera and the body camera from officers who were involved. The question at hand here is whether or not this man, Keith Scott, had a gun and had that gun in his hand and did he do anything threatening with it in the moment before he was shot by an officer. Now, that video did not provide a ton of clarity about that. We see him get out of the car. He appears to be walking backwards.
MR. WESLEY LOWERYIt's unclear if he's complying exactly or not. And then, one of the several officers opened fire. So it did open -- it opened some new questions and people here in Charlotte still have some questions about it. The night that the tapes were released, there was a massive demonstration downtown, a few hundred people marching and chanting, remained completely peaceful, but it certainly was a show of force.
MR. WESLEY LOWERYAnd, you know, as I continue to interview people, they have a lot of questions. They want to know -- they want more details so the specifics of why Keith Scott was being interacted with, why he's been stopped. They want to know some questions even about the camera and the tapes themselves. During the body camera footage, there's about 30 seconds of audio missing so people have questions about that. And so people are certainly still seeking more answers and there still is some real questions that, you know, have not quite been addressed yet.
REHMWesley, have you seen the videos yourself?
LOWERYYes. So I've seen both videos, the dashboard camera and the body camera video.
REHMAnd can -- I don't understand why we can't tell whether there is a gun in his hand or whether he has a weapon. I don't understand that if you've got both body cameras and a dashboard vehicle camera.
LOWERYAnd I think that's -- and that's a question a lot of people are asking, right? We were hoping, you know, a lot of the public was hoping that this video would settle once and for all this question of what happened here. But it does not. Now, there are additional questions, right? Again, the dashboard camera seems a little blurry. There was only one officer when there were at least three or four officers there -- only one of them was wearing a body camera, which raises the question of, you know, a department where theoretically all of the officers are supposed to be equipped, should there be more footage.
LOWERYEven the body camera video we have seen, again, it begins about halfway through the interaction and is missing about 30 seconds of audio. Those are questions that the public still doesn't quite have answers for why. And I would expect some more information to come on that later today. And so I think that there still are, you know, I think that very often we think of body cameras in the post Ferguson world sometimes mistakenly as a silver bullet, right?
LOWERYIf only there was cameras -- video of everything, we would understand it and we would get it. But unfortunately, what we know and police chiefs say this and unions will say this is that, you know, the cameras still have limitations themselves and so they cannot always bridge the gap between the community and the officers.
REHMTake us back to actually how this encounter occurred, Wesley.
LOWERYNow, there's a little ambiguity in there, certainly some unanswered questions. The Charlotte police have been a little inconsistent about how they described this, right? But to the best of our knowledge currently, Keith Scott was waiting in the spot where he waits every day to pick up his son at the bus stop. He sits in his truck and he waits. At the time, there was a team of plain clothes officers who were in this apartment complex attempting to serve an arrest warrant for someone else.
LOWERYThey were not there for Keith Scott. Now, according the police account, the police narrative, at some point, one of these officers noticed that Keith Scott has marijuana with him while he sat in his car and noticed that he had a firearm with him. It's unclear if they say this through the car window. It's unclear if they walked up to the car. It's also unclear if Mr. Scott had gotten out of the car and maybe that's how they saw it.
LOWERYThey've said contradictory things. But what we know is that at some point, after they see the -- allegedly see this gun, the officers decide to abandon serving this warrant, go and put on police vests and then come back because, again, they were plain clothes officer -- come back now that they're in gear to affect an arrest of Keith Scott or to investigate this gun. At that point, the videos begin to cut on. We see them with weapons drawn, yelling at him as he sits in the car to drop the gun, drop the gun, get out of the car.
LOWERYOne officer takes his baton out and starts slamming the back window of the truck in an attempt to get Keith Scott to come out. At some point, Keith Scott steps out of his car. Meanwhile, his wife is a witness to this. She is screaming that he does not have a gun. She asking -- she's begging her husband to get out of the car. And at some point, as Keith Scott gets out of car, he begins to take a few steps backwards and one of the officers opens fire at least three or four times.
REHMHere's a question so many people have been asking me. Is Charlotte, North Carolina, an open gun carry city?
LOWERYYes. So -- yes. And so Charlotte, North Carolina, and the entire state of North Carolina is an open carry state, which means that simply having a gun is not necessarily probably cause for, you know, an arrest and it's not -- it does not trigger, you know, a crime being committed. Now, what officers have said is the combination of the marijuana, an illegal drug, while, again, it remains unclear exactly how they saw him with this, you know, it doesn't -- it's unclear if he ever got out of the car or how that worked.
LOWERYBut the combination of the drugs and the gun is what the police are saying is their probably cause for interacting with him.
REHMAnd then, there's the question of the timing of the release of the video. At first, police declined to do that. And then, I gather, the mayor stepped in. Tell me about that.
LOWERYOf course. And so, again, this is a shooting that occurred on Tuesday and at the time, it -- and, again, this was right in the heart of our kind of national digestion of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, shooting. So this is time when this was one of the top issues of the moment. This shooting occurs on Tuesday. They have conflicting reports. The police say he has a gun. The family members who began live streaming from the shooting said he did not have a gun. He was armed with a book. We don't know why they shot him.
LOWERYAnd so there's these conflicting reports that drew massive attention and drew people into the streets. On the first night, there was massive protests that turned into some fights between police officers and residents, you know, people start throwing rocks, 12 officers were injured. The second night, things got even worse. You had damage to buildings downtown and you had a young man who was shot and killed in what seemingly was a random shooting during the chaos downtown, at which point these kind of calls and demands for the video were only kind of escalating.
LOWERYFriday the National Guard comes in. You have a night, again, of continued protests, but that are calm and more peaceful and on a Saturday afternoon, again, as this pressure continues to mount, Hillary Clinton had called for it to be released. The state attorney general had called for it to be released. On Saturday afternoon, these videos were finally released.
REHMIsn't there a law that addressed, directly, the issue of release of body footage that -- and that law doesn't go into effect until October 1st and on that date, because of that date, the mayor said before -- because the shooting occurred before then, they ought to go ahead and release it now.
LOWERYExactly. There's the law passed in North Carolina by the Republican legislature there that -- about the governing of these body camera videos and police videos. And what that determined essentially was that someone would have to get a court order in order to have these videos released. This is something we've seen nationally, right? People hold out body cameras because they believe the video will lead to transparency.
LOWERYHowever, there's been a backlash to the spread of body cameras. There are many legislatures and departments that are adopting policies designed to keep the public from having access to these tapes. In fact, there have been at least 90 police shooting here, which The Washington Post, our analysis, we know that there was body camera video and in about at least half of them, the video has never been released to the public.
REHMThat's pretty incredible. And, you know, I think that that's what people are wanting is the transparency, the openness. I would imagine that tonight at the first presidential debate, we're going to see raised issues around police violence. What do you think?
LOWERYOf course. I would imagine. I'd be shocked if this is not a major conversation. Both the idea of police violence as well as the idea of violence in general. The FBI's also due to put out its national homicide numbers today sometime for last year.
REHMThey just released them.
LOWERYThere you go.
REHMAnd they have said that violent crime is up so we know that -- I'm sure that that will come up tonight. Wesley Lowery, he's national reporter for The Washington Post. He was on the line with us from Charlotte, North Carolina. Thank you so much.
LOWERYExcellent. Thank you, anytime.
REHMAnd short break. We'll be right back.
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