Prosecutors said that theÂ officer who fatally shot a Charlotte man in September will not be charged for the shooting, concluding that the man was armed and that the officer acted lawfully during the encounter.
âItâs a justified shooting based on the totalityÂ of the circumstances,âÂ R. Andrew Murray, district attorney forÂ Mecklenburg County, said during a news conference Wednesday morning.
The shooting of Keith Lamont Scott on Sept. 20 set off days of heated, sometimes violent protests in Charlotte, some of the most intense demonstrations seen nationwide amid an increased focus on how police use deadly force.
Murray said that the recommendation from 15 career prosecutors in this case was unanimous. He saidÂ that he informed Scottâs family of the decision earlier Wednesday.
âIt was a difficult decision,â Murray said during aÂ briefing Wednesday morning. âHowever, the family was extremely gracious.â
Scottâs family said they were âprofoundly disappointedâ in the announcement Wednesday.Â They also thanked Murray and investigators for sharing information about how the probe unfolded and concluded.
Police have said that Scott raisedÂ a gun at officers before Brentley Vinson, aÂ black plainclothes officer in Charlotte, fired the fatal shots.
Scottâs family has disputed that the 43-year-oldÂ pointed a gun at the officer and whether he had a gun. After the shooting, police released photos of a gun and ankle holster, and authorities said that gun was loaded and had Scottâs fingerprints and DNA.
During the news conference, Murray pored over details from the day of the shooting, ultimately saying he had no doubt that Scott had a gun during the encounter. He also saidÂ the gun â a Colt. 380 semi-automatic â was loaded, the safety was off andÂ a bullet was in the chamber.
âThereâs been some speculation in the community regarding whether Mr. ScottÂ was armed,â Murray said. âAll of the credible and available evidence suggests that he was, in fact, armed.â
In a letter to Bob Schurmeier, head of the North Carolina Bureau of Investigation, and Kerr Putney, chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police force, Murray said that evidence included DNA on the gunâs grip and slide, officers discussing seeing the gun on the radio before the shooting and a person admitting they illegally sold Scott the same gun found at the shooting scene.
PoliceÂ had previously released a photo of a âbluntâ from the scene. Authorities saidÂ officers in an unmarked car in the apartment complex where the shooting occurred were conducting surveillance in an unrelated case when they saw Scott, in his own car, rolling the blunt with marijuana.
Murray said Wednesday that while police said they were not going to act on the marijuana, they decided to move on Scott when they saw him raise a gun while sitting in his car.
Vinson wasÂ not wearing a recording device at the time of the shooting, police said, but the department released other videos from the scene after intense pressure.Â Murray said Wednesday that none of the videos showed Scott with the gun in his hand when he got out of his car, something all four officers at the scene reported seeing.
However, MurrayÂ said that videos did appear to show that Scottâs pant leg was pulled up above where police said they recovered the ankle holster. During the briefing, Murray also showed surveillance video footage from the same day showing a bulge in Scottâs ankle that he said was consistent with a holster and a gun.
In a recording of the shooting takenÂ by Scottâs wife,Â Rakeyia, she can be heard yelling at the officers that her husband was unarmed while pleading with them not to fire.
âDonât shoot him,â she says in the video. âDonât shoot him. He has no weapon. He has no weapon. Donât shoot him.â
In his report on the shooting, Murray said that officers called on Scott to drop his gun 10 times before he got out of his SUV and continued saying it after he wasÂ out of the car.
Vinson told authorities thatÂ he felt Scott wasÂ âan imminentÂ threatâ to him and the other officers. During an interview withÂ a Charlotte detective conducted a day after the shooting, Vinson said he fired becauseÂ Scott was looking at the officers like he was âtrying to decide who he wanted to shoot first.â
âI felt like if I didnât do anything right then at that point itâs like heâ¦he was gonna shoot me or heâs gonna shoot one a my buddies, um, and it was gonna happen right now,â Vinson said during the interview, according to a transcript releasedÂ by Murrayâs office.
Footage from a body camera worn by another officer at the sceneÂ captured part of the encounter, but it lacked audio because the officer did not activate it until after the shooting. Investigators and the public were therefore unable to learnÂ some key details about what happened before the shots were fired.
An autopsy showed that Scott had four gunshot wounds, including one to his back.
According to Murray, investigatorsÂ spoke to a number of people who said they saw the shooting, but some of them gave conflicting statements. Three of these people had said on social media or told reporters they thought Scott was unarmed, but investigators determined they never saw the shooting, Murray said.
The State Bureau of Investigation put 63 agents on this probe, and they spend more than 2,300 hours on the case, Murray said.
While initial accountsÂ said that Scott was reading a book when he encountered police, state investigators found no evidence he had a book with him when he was shot.
Scottâs family, as well as attorneys representing them, called on anyone who protests the decision to do so peacefully.
âWhile we understand that many in the Charlotte area share our frustration and pain, we ask that everyone work together to fix the system that allowed this tragedy to happen in the first place,â the Scott family said in a statement released through their attorneys. âAll our family wanted was justice and for these members of law enforcement to understand that what they did was wrong.â
Charles Monnett, an attorney for the family, suggested during a news conference thatÂ Scottâs relativesÂ may still seek a civil lawsuit against the police department or the city for the shooting, adding: âWe lookÂ forward to someday obtaining justice for Keith and his family.â
At least one group of activists in Charlotte said they planned to gather outside the police department headquarters on Wednesday evening to protest the decision.
âWe recognize that for some members of our community, this news will be met with different reactions,â the city of Charlotte said in a statement Wednesday. âNo matter where you stand on the issue, the events surrounding the Scott shooting have forever changed our community, and we intend to learn from and build a stronger Charlotte because of it.â
The unrest set off by Scottâs death left the city reelingÂ and struggling to return to normal. Some small protests continued after the demonstrations that garnered national media coverage, while downtown streets remained unsettledÂ in the aftermath of peaceful protests that had descended into chaos.
âThe lives of both the Scott and Vinson families have been changed forever,â theÂ Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said in a statement Wednesday. âOne of our officersâ had to make the difficult but split second decision to use their service weapon and as a result a life was lost. In these circumstances, it is important that we remain focused on our sworn duty and unwavering commitment to protecting our community along with serving it.â
Vinson was placed on administrative leave after the shooting. A police spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding his status after Murrayâs announcement.
Scott is one of 875 people fatally shot by police officers so far this year, according to aÂ Washington Post database tracking such shootings.
Charges against officers who fatally shoot people are rare, but this number has increased recently after waves of protests prompted by high-profile deaths involving policeÂ in New York, Baltimore, Cleveland and Baton Rouge.
Earlier this month, prosecutors in Minnesota said they were charging an officerÂ with manslaughter for fatally shootingÂ man during a JulyÂ encounter partially streamed on Facebook. In September, while Charlotte was still roiled by protests, a Tulsa police officer was charged with manslaughter forÂ shooting and killing an unarmed black man four days before Scott was killed.
This story, first published at 11:28 a.m., will be updated through the day.