Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said Thursday that video he has seen from the fatal shooting of a black man this week in University City indicates the officer was justified in his actions.
“If I felt laws were broken, I would have taken action by now,” Putney said in an interview with The Charlotte Observer.
Putney said by that he meant he would have already charged the officer, Brentley Vinson, 26, who has served the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department for two years.
Putney’s remarks brought to mind the case of Randall Kerrick, a CMPD officer charged with voluntary manslaughter within 24 hours of fatally wounding Jonathan Ferrell, an unarmed college student in 2013. Kerrick was later acquitted.
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Ultimately, the decision on whether to charge the officer will come as a result of investigations being undertaken by the State Bureau of Investigation at the behest of the Meckenburg District Attorney’s Office, and CMPD.
Vinson was in plain clothes as part of a unit searching for a wanted suspect in an apartment complex Tuesday afternoon when he encountered Keith Lamont Scott, 43, who was in a parked vehicle. Police have said that Scott stepped out of the vehicle with a gun and was shot after ignoring orders to drop the weapon.
Police would not say Thursday whether the weapon recovered from the parking lot of the apartments was loaded. A photograph circulating on Facebook shows Scott laying on the pavement being attended to by two officers immediately after the shooting.
Putney said the image, which police acquired through routine monitoring of social media, appeared to be genuine and un-retouched. It shows what appears to be a handgun on the pavement at Scott’s feet.
Putney said that the angle of the video he saw did not make it clear whether Scott pointed a weapon at anyone. But he said the video supported statements of officers and witnesses at the scene.
Wednesday night’s uptown violence, which followed peaceful and orderly protests, was the work of only a few people bent on causing trouble, Putney said.
He thought the department had brought in enough officers Wednesday to handle the protests if they turned unruly, but realized late in the evening as violence escalated that the city would need help.
At that time, he made a request to Gov. Pat McCrory for support from the State Highway Patrol and National Guard. “When I saw our capacity was being exceeded,” he said, “I made the call.”
McCrory said authorities were already making plans to accommodate Charlotte’s needs if a request for assistance was made and the movement of people from law enforcement and the National Guard was set in motion immediately.
Putney said the fatal shooting of a man in uptown during Wednesday night’s violence appeared to stem from a dispute between two individuals. Allegations on social media that police were involved in the shooting appeared to be unsupported, he said, though the shooting was still under investigation.