Exclusive: Widow of Keith Lamont Scott wants us not to forget her husband
On the one-year anniversary of the police shooting that killed Keith Lamont Scott, his widow criticized the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, saying “my husband didn’t deserve to die.”
Rakeyia Scott told the Observer she remains angry about the confrontation with officers that led to her husband’s death and the toll it has taken on her family.
“They failed me,” said Scott, 40, who returned to Charlotte on Wednesday to mark the anniversary. “They failed my family. And most importantly, they failed my husband.”
Scott choked back emotions as she described the day her husband died. Since the shooting, she said has moved to another city, seen the birth of a grandchild and tried to cope with the loss of her husband of 20 years.
“My children are still grieving,” said Scott, a mother of seven, ranging in age from 10 to 25. “They all grieve differently. It’s like I am pulled in seven directions.”
CMPD spokesman Rob Tufano said the department would not respond to Rakeyia Scott’s comments.
He referred a reporter to responses from Chief Kerr Putney during an interview with the Observer last week.
Putney did not directly address specifics of the shooting, but highlighted reforms and social outreach CMPD has emphasized during the last year.
Charlotte’s Citizens Review Board, which looks into complaints about CMPD’s handling of misconduct cases, examined the Scott case and asked the department to consider reviewing its use of force policy and conduct formal studies on reaction time.
In response, CMPD has said it is reviewing its use-of-force policy.
‘My voice didn’t matter’
Keith Scott, 43, died Sept. 20, 2016, after being shot by Officer Brentley Vinson outside the University City apartment complex where he lived with his wife and children. Police say they approached Scott because he had marijuana and a gun.
Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray and CMPD both determined that Officer Brentley Vinson’s shooting of Scott was justified. Scott stepped out of an SUV with a gun in his hand and ignored commands from five officers on the scene to drop it, authorities said.
But protest groups and some law enforcement experts criticized CMPD for using deadly force.
The shooting unleashed two nights of vigils, street violence and several more days of protests, leading to dozens of arrests. Then-Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency.
Rakeyia Scott, who witnessed the shooting, said her husband likely did not obey police commands because he took more than 10 different medications for ailments that included a traumatic brain injury. She said he had just taken his medicine, which often left him dazed and unresponsive for up to 30 minutes.
A cellphone video released by the family last year shows the shots were fired after Scott’s wife told officers that he suffered from a “T.B.I,” an abbreviation for traumatic brain injury.
“I was yelling to the officers,” Rakeyia Scott said. “My voice didn’t matter.”
Justin Bamberg, an attorney representing the Scott family, said Wednesday that his client likely would file a lawsuit against the city of Charlotte.
He noted that the Citizens Review Board held a three-day hearing in August on the Scott shooting. The board, which has never sided against police in its 20-year history, split 4-4 in a vote on whether Chief Putney erred in his decision that Vinson followed department policy and procedure when he shot Scott.
“We have a very good case,” Bamberg said.
CMPD has killed three people so far this year. Prosecutors have ruled that two of them were justified and yet to decide the third shooting, which took place earlier this month.
But the shootings have raised similar complaints as the Scott case — about how often and how quickly officers use deadly force against minorities and people with mental disabilities.
Rakeyia Scott said she is speaking out to help the community. If her husband were alive, she said he would have called for a reduction in the number of “unnecessary” police shootings.
“If it wasn’t my husband (that was killed), it would have been whoever they were looking for,” Rakeyia Scott said. “It was all wrong.”