Mecklenburg prosecutors will announce as soon as Wednesday whether they will seek charges against the police officer who fatally shot Keith Lamont Scott in September, a death that set off days of protests and rioting in parts of Charlotte.
Citing ethical considerations, the District Attorney’s Office has declined comment about the case up to now. But sources close to the investigation have told the Observer that prosecutors now have the findings of a state investigation into the Sept. 20 shooting that was requested by Scott’s family. They also have Scott’s autopsy report.
Charlotte attorney Charles Monnett said Monday that the family is scheduled to meet with prosecutors at 9 a.m. Wednesday to discuss the findings by the State Bureau of Investigation. Afterward, Monnett said he expects the District Attorney’s Office to announce whether it will bring charges against Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Officer Brentley Vinson or if prosecutors have decided that Scott’s shooting was justified.
District Attorney Andrew Murray along with Bill Stetzer, the head of Murray’s homicide team, are expected to play key roles in that decision. Stetzer refused to discuss the case on Monday.
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A spokeswoman for Murray said it is “routine for this office to meet with family members during the course of a review of an officer-involved shooting.”
Scott, 43, was shot three times during a standoff with police near his home off Old Concord Road in north Charlotte. Police say Vinson opened fire after Scott, a convicted felon, refused multiple police orders to drop his gun. Autopsies show that he was hit in the stomach, back and arm. Both Vinson and Scott are African-American.
Police say they were in the parking lot of Scott’s apartment complex searching for an unrelated suspect when they saw Scott in his car with marijuana and a handgun.
Scott’s wife, who witnessed the shooting, says her husband was unarmed and waiting for his son’s return from school. She said he had just taken medication for a recent head injury that made it difficult for him to communicate. Family members believe the white officers on the scene – and not Vinson – actually killed her husband.
The shooting drew a crowd of protestors to the scene, and violence erupted overnight and continued into the early morning. It spread to uptown on Sept. 21, where bystanders and police were both injured, one man was fatally shot, and more than 100 people were arrested.
Police Chief Kerr Putney has said the shooting was justified and that Scott presented an imminent threat of death or serious injury to officers. Protesters say Scott was gunned down during a confrontation that police brought about.
Criminal charges against police officers related to on-duty shootings are extremely rare. In 2013, Officer Wes Kerrick was arrested and charged with voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell, an unarmed African-American. His 2015 trial ended with a deadlocked jury that had voted 8-4 for acquittal. The resulting mistrial set off demonstrations throughout the night, but they never reached the size or violence that followed Scott’s death.
Monnett was the lawyer for the Ferrell family in its lawsuit over the shooting, which the city settled before the trial for a record $2.25 million. When asked Monday what he expects the prosecutors’ decision to be in the Scott case, Monnett declined to comment.
CMPD has already begun preparing for another round of protests, should Scott’s shooting be ruled as justified.
If an announcement is made this week, the weather could work in the city’s favor. Rain is expected to move into the city Monday night and stay through Thursday morning, conditions that could affect the size of demonstrations.