Wednesday, November 30, 2016

District attorney lays out case in decision to not charge officer in Scott shooting

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 6:08 PM

Following a press conference this morning in which District Attorney Andrew Murray announced that no charges would be brought against CMPD officer Brentley Vinson for shooting and killing Keith Scott in September, Murray released a 22-page report laying out his case for why his team of prosecutors does not believe Vinson acted criminally.

The report is broken into four parts: an overview of officer-involved shootings including legal standards and the district attorney's role in investigating them; a look at the Scott shooting itself that includes analysis of testimonies from officers on the scene and civilian witnesses, some of whom were said to later recant key claims; a closer legal analysis of why prosecutors do not believe Scott’s shooting was a criminal act; and a concluding statement from Murray that addresses the unrest seen in Charlotte following the shooting, among other things.

The following is a breakdown of the report, which can be read in its entirety here.


Part I: Overview of officer-involved shootings

This section begins by going over the role of a district attorney’s office in an officer-involved shooting, pointing out that a DA does not usually review cases in which police choose not to press charges. However, following an officer-involved shooting, the DA’s office does review all related files of the agency that carried out the investigation, in this case the State Bureau of Investigations.

The report emphasizes that today’s announcement is simply the result of the DA’s office deciding that prosecutors believe there is “not a reasonable likelihood of proving criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt unanimously to a jury.”

A DA’s office stating that a shooting was not criminal does not mean prosecutors necessarily believe the shooting was not avoidable or that police followed proper protocol. This is important in that the CMPD and/or Brinson could still be vulnerable to a civil suit on those grounds. Representatives of the Scott family said at a press conference today they are still considering a civil suit.

The report then goes into detail about the legal standards regarding officer-involved shootings, explaining that a police officer has the same rights to self-protection that a civilian does. The report cites legal cases, including a Supreme Court case ruling that “[t]he ‘reasonableness’ of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.”

These legal standards are discussed in further detail and in direct relation to the Scott shooting in Part III.

Part II: The Scott shooting

Much of this part of the report goes over step-by-step findings of how investigators say the Scott shooting unfolded, much of which has been reported already. It states that officers doing surveillance in an unrelated case saw Scott rolling a marijuana blunt in his car and were going to ignore him until they then saw him holding a gun, at which time they attempted to arrest him.

A still from body-cam footage of an officer on the scene was Scott was killed.
  • A still from body-cam footage of an officer on the scene was Scott was killed.
The report quotes officers as describing Scott at the time he exited his car as “having a ‘blank stare,’ being ‘in a trance like state,’ and looking ‘like he just wasn’t there.’” These are all behaviors consistent with side effects of the drug Scott was prescribed to since suffering a traumatic brain injury in November 2015.

Vinson said it was then that he felt an imminent threat and shot Scott four times, stating, “I felt like if I didn’t do anything right then at that point it’s like he...he was gonna shoot me or he’s gonna shoot one a [sic] my buddies, um, and it was gonna happen right now.”

Scott did not raise his weapon at officers at any time during the incident, the implications of which are discussed in more detail in Part III.

The report then goes into detail about the overwhelming evidence that prosecutors say proves that Scott did, in fact, have a gun at the time of the incident, a fact that’s been debated by many who did not believe the CMPD’s original version of events. The report cites evidence from the scene, eyewitness accounts and statements from the man they say sold Scott the gun on September 2, less than three weeks before Scott was shot.

The report then analyzes eyewitness statements, painting a picture of a chaotic time following the shooting in which witnesses made statements to police and media that were later recanted, either by witnesses admitting to embellishing statements in the hours or days directly following the shooting or admitting to not actually being there as they originally claimed.

For example, directly following the shooting, Tahesia Williams reportedly told media that she watched Scott exit his vehicle and saw a book fall from his lap. She said he raised his arms and asked what he did wrong before being shot by a white police officer, claiming that Vinson, who is black, arrived later.

According to the report released today, three days after the shooting Williams admitted that she did not see the shooting and that she was actually sitting on the couch watching television with the volume up loud at the time the shooting happened. She reportedly told officers that she did not see a book when she came outside to the scene of the shooting after the fact.

The report cited a handful of other examples in which eyewitnesses made similar statements to police or media that were either found to be inconsistent with proven facts or recanted by the witness.

This part of the report concludes with a statement that after 63 agents from across the state spent 2,300 hours on their investigation, the SBI found no evidence that there was a book on scene or that any evidence, such as a gun, was planted.

Part III: Legal analysis

Much of this part of the report goes into an aspect that has been hardest to swallow for many who have watched video of Scott’s shooting in footage taken by police and Scott’s wife: whether he truly presented a threat to any of the officers’ lives that day.

The report cites two studies on reaction time that they say prove that Scott could have hypothetically raised his gun and shot at an officer before that officer or one of his fellow officers could have reacted, despite the fact that officers were already pointing guns at Scott. The report, however, also admits that there is no way of knowing what Scott’s intentions were that day.

The report quotes John C. Hall, former unit chief of the FBI’s Firearms Training Unit, as saying, “Simply expressed, an action will always occur before an appropriate reaction can be initiated and implemented. Action always beats reaction … The practical effect in the field of deadly force usage is that no law enforcement officer is required to wait or can be expected to wait until he is absolutely certain what it is that a subject is going to do, or has in his hand.”

Part IV: Murray’s conclusion

Protesters at CMPD headquarters in the days following Scott's shooting.
  • Protesters at CMPD headquarters in the days following Scott's shooting.
Andrew Murray’s concluding statement is a thoughtful one; an important human response after 20 pages of data and analysis of an incident that ended in a man’s life being lost. Murray reflects on the loss the Scott family has experienced while also looking at the bigger implications the Scott shooting had for Charlotte. He acknowledged a city in which inequality has acted as a breeding ground for the unrest the city saw after Scott’s killing.

The statement should be read in full, but I’ll pull a paragraph to quote here:

“In the days that followed Mr. Scott’s death, we watched as long-simmering frustrations boiled over. I heard observers say, ‘This is not Charlotte’ or ‘This is not the city that we love.’ But it is. This is Charlotte. This is where our friends, family, neighbors and colleagues felt so passionate that they marched on our streets to call for change. Let me be clear: I have not and will not condone violence or property damage as a means of expression. But the fact that criminal charges are not appropriate under the law in this particular case does not mean we can dismiss the concerns expressed by those who raised their voices to raise the consciousness of this community. I think it is time that all of us recognize that this is Charlotte, and not everyone experiences the same Charlotte.”

As with the original shooting, people have reacted in different ways throughout the city and country to today’s announcement. While some have expressed feeling a sense of closure, others have voiced their discontent with what they see as another refusal to hold police accountable.

As I send this to print, I am preparing to report on marches planned throughout the city by those who do not agree with today’s decision. Creative Loafing will continue to update readers on the community’s reaction.

One thing remains clear, hours after Murray’s press conference and more than two months after Scott’s shooting, it’s still far too early to tell the long-term effects the Scott shooting — and the reaction to it — will have on our city.

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Today's Top 5: Wednesday

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 12:17 PM

Here are the five best events going down in Charlotte and the surrounding area today, Nov. 30, 2016 as selected by the folks at Creative Loafing.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder at Knight Theater
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El Malpais w/ Modern Primitives, Pig Mountain at Snug Harbor

Monthly Talent Show at Chasers

CraftXcraft at Rock Bottom

Run Club at NoDa Brewing

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Today's Top 5: Saturday

Posted By on Sat, Nov 26, 2016 at 7:00 AM

Here are the five best events going down in Charlotte and the surrounding area today, Nov. 26, 2016 as selected by the folks at Creative Loafing.

Cal Maro w/ Margolnick and 5251977 at Snug Harbor
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David Childers at The Evening Muse

Tree Lighting at the Hall at NASCAR Hall of Fame

Charlotte Comedy Theater (That's What She Said, female ensemble) at Wet Willie's

The Flatland Tourists w/ Henry River Honey at Double Door Inn

Friday, November 25, 2016

Today's Top 5: Friday

Posted By on Fri, Nov 25, 2016 at 1:30 PM

Here are the five best events going down in Charlotte and the surrounding area today, Nov. 25, 2016 as selected by the folks at Creative Loafing.

Nobunny at The Station
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Mannheim Steamroller Christmas at Belk Theater

Tribute to Levon Helm at Visulite Theatre

WBT Holiday on Ice at Plaza of NASCAR Hall of Fame

Seven Lions at The Fillmore

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Today's Top 5: Wednesday

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2016 at 11:18 AM

Here are the five best events going down in Charlotte and the surrounding area today, Nov. 23, 2016 as selected by the folks at Creative Loafing.

El Malpais w/ Minimums, Justin Aswell, The Piazolla Tangos at Snug Harbor

Carolina Panthers' Third Annual Tree Lighting at Bank of America Stadium

Holiday Kickoff w/ August Phillippe at Chasers

FINNSgiving Bash at BlackFinn Ameripub

Turkey Day Eve Steve at Heist Brewery

Monday, November 21, 2016

Lunch Break (11/21/16): Anti-Trump protesters march through Uptown; man killed in west Charlotte home invasion

Posted By on Mon, Nov 21, 2016 at 11:48 AM

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About 150 people showed up on a sunny Saturday afternoon to denounce the recent election of Trump as president and march through the streets of Uptown Charlotte to voice their discontent.

Protesters met at Marshall Park at noon on Saturday to hold a rally in which a diverse group of speakers addressed the crowd, discussing solution-based strategies to minimize the effects of a Trump presidency and the importance to standing up to bigotry of any kind. Creative Loafing recorded a live-stream of the pre-march rally, which can be seen below.

After speakers addressed the crowd, the group of more than 150 people marched through Uptown, passing CMPD headquarters, Epicentre and stopping shortly at the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets before looping back around to Marshall Park.

The march lasted just under an hour and remained peaceful, with the only tension coming when a man wearing Trump/Pence t-shirt confronted protesters as the approached the center of the city. The ma stuck around, calling some protesters "fucking idiots," then telling nearby police officers he was threatened after a few protesters began engaging with them.

As the march continued and the Trump supporter began to follow along, local organizer Braxton Winston engaged with him, carrying on a discussion about Trump and his potential policies/policymakers and live-streaming it through his phone. The man seemed to calm down as he spoke with Winston and eventually split off from the group.

Organizers have already planned another Trump protest for the same time and place this Saturday afternoon in hopes of standing up against Trump's hate speech and the racist policies pushed by his him and his appointees.

Below are pictures from Saturday's march:
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A 36-year-old man was shot and killed during an apparent home invasion in west Charlotte last night, according to the CMPD. Police say multiple suspects forced their way into Talea Craig's home on Rocklake Drive just before 11 p.m. last night. After a confrontation, at least one of the suspects shot Craig, who was later pronounced dead on the scene by Medic. Anyone with information about this homicide is asked to call the lead investigator, Detective McKee, at 704-432-TIPS.

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Today's Top 5: Friday

Posted By on Fri, Nov 18, 2016 at 8:15 AM

Here are the five best events going down in Charlotte and the surrounding area today, Nov. 18, 2016 as selected by the folks at Creative Loafing.

Opening reception for Leandro Manzo: Mar de Mares exhibit at LaCa Projects
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Moonshine Festival at Rooftop 210

Dust & Ashes w/ Mike Strauss Band, Midnight Snack, Em Young at Snug Harbor

New Frequencies / Dance: Chance Encounters at Goodyear Arts

Steve Vai at Neighborhood Theatre

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Today's Top 5: Thursday

Posted By on Thu, Nov 17, 2016 at 12:20 PM

Here are the five best events going down in Charlotte and the surrounding area today, Nov. 17, 2016 as selected by the folks at Creative Loafing.

The Hip Hop Fellow at The Underground
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Sloan at Visulite Theatre

Meet the Brewer: Highland Brewing Co. at The Flying Saucer

LeAnna Eden & The Garden Of at The Station

Lara Americo CD Release Party w/ Megan Jean & the KFB, Namoli Brennet at Petra's

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Lunch Break (11/16/16): Warrants signed against local business owner for destroying Black Lives Matter installation; teenager dies after being shot Sunday

Posted By on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 12:03 PM


A man who allegedly destroyed an art installation supporting Black Lives Matter and Equality NC in October is still walking the streets, despite the fact that two warrants were issued against him by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in October.

According to local artist Mark Doepker, he was followed on foot one day in Uptown by John Schmidt, owner of Midtown Search Group LLC, and when Schmidt caught up with him he began to yell intimidating things at him, including stating that he had a problem with the "N**gers Matter" sign above his car. The sign he was referring to was a spinning cube that showed support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Doepker says Schmidt then began trying to remove the installation. He was eventually successful in doing so, and police apparently witnessed the man break the sculpture off from the car and smash it on the ground.

Since the incident, CMPD has signed two warrants against Schmidt for destruction of property and assault, although he has not yet been arrested. In this clip from last night's WCCB newscast, reporter Courtney Francisco confronts Schmidt in front of his business, but he refuses to talk. Police say they are yet to find Schmidt, but Doepker tells Creative Loafing he has been calling to tell them his whereabouts and check up on efforts to arrest him for the past week.

Doepker says the installation was recovered and fixed up enough to where it will be displayed at an upcoming UNC Charlotte exhibit about protests and activism in Charlotte.

A photo Mark Doepker took of John Schmidt before Schmidt allegedly vandalized an installation supporting Black Lives Matter that was placed above his car.
  • A photo Mark Doepker took of John Schmidt before Schmidt allegedly vandalized an installation supporting Black Lives Matter that was placed above his car.

—————

A 15-year-old boy died last night of injuries from a shooting in east Charlotte on Sunday afternoon. Zavier Ellis was pronounced dead last night at Carolinas Medical Center. He was found suffering from a gunshot wound on Sherington Way, off Albemarle Road near Mint Hill, at around 2:41 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. No arrests have yet been made in the case.

—————

Police are asking the public for help in identifying two men who they say robbed a Family Dollar on E. Sugar Creek Road last night, shooting an employee in the process. Police say the two men entered the store at around 6 p.m. Police responding to an armed robbery call at the location found an employee suffering from a gunshot wound. Police ask that anyone with information about the robbery or the suspects pictured below call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.
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Today's Top 5: Wednesday

Posted By on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 11:49 AM

Here are the five best events going down in Charlotte and the surrounding area today, Nov. 16, 2016 as selected by the folks at Creative Loafing.

The Student Body screening at Sardis Presbyterian Church

Helmet w/ Local H at Visulite Theatre

Art + Aperitif at Le Méridien

Burn & Brew at Ayrsley Green

El Malpais w/ Hectagons!, Blossoms, Family Friend at Snug Harbor

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