CMPD denies WBTV request for video of Keith Scott shooting
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department continued to withhold video from police body cameras and dash cameras Wednesday that contain footage surrounding the moments a police officer shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott in the parking lot of a University City-area apartment complex.
Police say Scott was shot as he attempted to get out of his car with a gun in his hand. His family disputes that, saying he was in his car reading a book while he waited for his son to come home from school.
At a press conference Wednesday morning, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney said his department would not release the video.
"The law is pretty specific, especially around evidence for an investigation, and I cannot release that," Putney said.
In response to a formal request for all video and audio recordings documenting the incident, a CMPD spokesman said the following:
"The applicable statute that governs release of video is set out below and specifically states that criminal investigatory records are not public records."
Specifically, the spokesman cited a portion of the North Carolina Public Records Act, N.C.G.S 132-1.4(a) that says records of criminal investigations compiled by law enforcement agencies are not a public record.
A video or audio recording is considered a public record under the state's law.
But criminal defense attorney Brad Smith says CMPD overlooked a subsequent part of the law that applies more specifically to cases like the one at hand.
"The video would certainly fall under subsection three, which is the circumstances surrounding an arrest," Smith explained.
Smith is referring to N.C.G.S. 132-1.4(c)(3), which says the following police records are public, even though other types of police records aren't:
"The circumstances surrounding an arrest, including the time and place of the arrest, whether the arrest involved resistance, possession or use of weapons, or pursuit, and a description of any items seized in connection with the arrest."
In this case, police were attempting to detain Scott when he exited his car with a gun, Smith explained, so any CMPD documents showing that—including video and audio recordings of the incident—are required to be made public under the law.
Smith questioned Putney's explanation that the law prohibits the recordings from being released.
"There is no language in here, in the statute, that says the law prevents him from doing it," Smith said. "The reasons we've received right now, I sort of ask the question of why is that the response we've been given?"
Another provision of the law, N.C.G.S. 132-1.4(e), does allow police to withhold records that should be made public—like video and audio recordings of Scott's shooting—if police get an order from a judge.
CMPD has, so far, neither sought nor received such an order.
Attorneys for WBTV have written to lawyers for CMPD, including City Attorney Bob Hagemann, requesting the video be made public as called for by the state's public records law, which currently governs the release of police video.
The laws surrounding police video are set to change in October, as a law passed by the North Carolina General Assembly takes effect.
Under the new law, all police video is not public unless police receive an order from a judge to release it. The law allows for a chief of police to show limited portions of a video to a person appearing in the video at a time and place of their choosing.
Governor Pat McCrory hailed the new law as one that would increase transparency when he signed it earlier this year.
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