Just-released police video shows protests turning violent after Scott shooting


CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Doug Miller and Bruce Henderson/Charlotte Observer) - 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 in 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.

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.

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