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Just-released police video shows protests growing after Scott shooting

Newly released police video shows chaos after deadly shooting uptown

One protester was shot and killed during protests in uptown Charlotte, one day after the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott on Sept. 20, 2016. This footage was recorded by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police from city traffic cameras and release
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One protester was shot and killed during protests in uptown Charlotte, one day after the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott on Sept. 20, 2016. This footage was recorded by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police from city traffic cameras and release

Charlotte police video, never before seen by the public, shows birdseye views of the boiling points that erupted into violence after a police officer fatally shot Keith Lamont Scott one year ago.

Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin on Tuesday ordered the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to release to the Observer surveillance video taken during the protests and riots that followed the Sept. 20, 2016, shooting.

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Keith Lamont Scott

The 90 minutes of footage, recorded by traffic cameras and a police helicopter, show crowds swelling under the orange glow of streetlights during two nights of unrest.

It captures decisive moments in the hours of standoffs between police and protesters, including the instant a man was shot and killed in uptown Charlotte.

In that footage from Sept. 21, a loose crowd of people wander in the street outside the Omni Charlotte Hotel, at College and Trade streets. In an instant, people scatter, running from a point on the left side of the video frame.

The video later shows bystanders huddled around a body, some peering toward the sidewalk with the light of cell phones. Others walk away in horror, hands over mouths.

Other footage, shot by a police helicopter, show protesters blocking Interstate 85 in north Charlotte the night after Scott was shot, and marching through uptown Charlotte.

More peaceful demonstrations continued for nearly a week.

The spotlight of a hovering police helicopter shows a line of demonstrators blocking traffic in north Charlotte near I-85 at 10:43 p.m. on Sept. 21. A CATS bus sent to evacuate police officers sits idle.

On the second night after Scott’s shooting, marching demonstrators massed against a line of bike-mounted police officers on College Street near uptown’s EpiCentre.

Hours after the Scott shooting at 2:11 a.m. Sept. 21, traffic cameras show a line of demonstrators blocking one direction of the interstate in north Charlotte, forcing trucks to stop. Police in riot gear stand on the other side of the highway.

Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray announced in December that he concluded that Officer Brentley Vinson’s shooting of Scott was lawful and no charges would be filed. Scott, Murray said, stepped out of his SUV with a gun in his hand and ignored at least 10 commands from five officers on the scene to drop it.

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.

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Brentley Vinson at Liberty University. Liberty University photo

The Observer first requested video of the protests from CMPD on July 21.

By mid-August, police officials determined that the video was not public record and that the Observer would have to petition the courts to get it. Police also said they had more than 78 hours of footage.

The Observer refined its request to an estimated 90 minutes of video footage that focused on moments when the confrontations escalated and decided to seek a court order compelling the department to release the information.

On Aug. 28, the newspaper filed a petition in Mecklenburg County Superior Court seeking a hearing.

On Thursday, Judge Ervin heard arguments from the Observer and CMPD, which did not oppose the release of the footage. A Mecklenburg County prosecutor asked the judge to redact about two minutes of footage related to the shooting of Justin Carr during the uptown protests on Sept. 21. The lawyer for Rayquan Borum, accused of killing Carr, also asked that the video not be released. But Ervin disagreed and ordered the videos to be released, unredacted, to the Observer.

Ervin agreed with CMPD's request to make all the material public online after the Observer obtained it. He signed the order Tuesday.

In court, the Observer argued that the public had a right to see the video as the city continues to rebuild trust between its police department and residents.

Judge Ervin noted that the recordings release is “necessary to advance a compelling public interest.”

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.

The Charlotte Observer had sought roughly 90 minutes of footage which had never been seen by the public, focusing on moments when confrontations escalated.

In court, the Observer argued that the public had a right to see the video as the city continues to rebuild trust between its police department and residents. Such video is not considered public record, but police or a member of the public can petition the courts for its release. CMPD did not object to the Observer’s request.

Judge Ervin noted that the recordings release is “necessary to advance a compelling public interest.”

“Everyone in the community has been calling for transparency, and this is a big step for the judicial system,” said Robert Dawkins, state organizer of SAFE Coalition NC, a grassroots effort formed in 2013 to promote police accountability. “It is a major step for transparency. People don’t want to wait for the court trial for transparency.”

Here are the full videos, with CMPD notations:

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