Charlotte and Charleston, through others’ eyes

Protestors demonstrate in front of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police headquarters last week.
Protestors demonstrate in front of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police headquarters last week. TNS

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” Thoreau asked.

I don’t know about the difficulty ratings of miracles, but I am trying to see through some others’ eyes right now. Though my vision isn’t exactly clear, some of what I’m able to make out is challenging.

Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray last week decided officer Brentley Vinson was justified in using deadly force when he shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott in September. Murray said he was “extremely convinced that Mr. Vinson’s use of deadly force was lawful.” A panel of 15 career prosecutors reviewed all the evidence, Murray said, and reached the same conclusion.

I was not privy to the evidence in the Keith Scott case, and various videos, from police cameras as well as Mrs. Scott’s cell phone, were not visually conclusive. From everything I was able to take in, I believe Scott died in a shooting which certainly could have been avoided – but only by Scott himself. There is simply a limit to how long any person – police officer or not – can refrain from shooting when a man stands a few feet away holding a gun and refuses repeated commands to drop it.

In Charleston on Monday, a mistrial was declared in the case of former officer Michael Slager, charged with shooting to death Walter Scott in April 2015. Jurors could have found Slager guilty of murder, guilty of voluntary manslaughter, or not guilty. After 22 hours of deliberation, they could not agree unanimously on any of their options.

I was also not privy to the evidence in the Walter Scott case. However, the cell phone video made by a witness to that shooting was plenty clear. As the unarmed Scott is seen fleeing in a trot, Slager draws his weapon, levels it two-handed in classic shooting stance, and squeezes off seven quick shots at his back. Scott is wobbling before the officer fires his eighth.

After the Keith Scott shooting in Charlotte there were protests, including utterly unjustifiable violence, principally by blacks who say for them there is no justice in the justice system and police departments they are told to trust – even when officers and chiefs are black. I look at everything I am able to see in Keith Scott’s death, I try to see it through others’ eyes, and simply do not see the injustice others do.

Then I look to Charleston. How could I not see what others see? How could I not have empathy with those who say they cannot trust their lives in the hands of law enforcement and the justice system in this country?

Ignoring multiple warnings from an officer with weapon drawn to “drop the gun” is likely to get a person killed. Disrespectful as it may be, disobeying an officer – even fleeing an officer – is not a capital offense. Yet 12 supposedly reasonable people in Charleston couldn’t agree that what they saw on the video was an unlawful killing.

Some troublemakers are using the Black Lives Matter movement as a volatile political tool, but many black Americans have seen too many Charlestons. I’m trying to see all this through their eyes for an instant, Henry David.

Even through my own, it’s not a pretty sight.

Charlotte Observer contributor Keith Larson’s “My News and You Are Welcome Too It” can be heard daily at