CHARLOTTE – The police officer who shot and killed a black man in Charlotte, North Carolina, in September “acted lawfully” and will not face criminal charges for his use of force, the local district attorney said on Wednesday. Officer Brentley Vinson reasonably believed he and several other officers faced an imminent threat from Keith Scott, 43, who they saw holding a gun when they confronted him in the parking lot of a Charlotte apartment complex, District Attorney Andrew Murray told a news conference. “Officers can be heard at least 10 times ordering Mr. Scott to drop the gun,” the prosecutor said, referring to videos of the incident. “Mr. Scott did not comply with those commands.” The decision not to prosecute the officer raised fears of fresh protests in Charlotte. Scott’s death on Sept. 20 sparked a week of demonstrations that turned riotous and violent. Murray urged calm, noting that 15 career prosecutors in his office reviewed the case and made a unanimous recommendation. Scott’s family said they were frustrated by prosecutors’ conclusions but also called for peaceful protests. “We are profoundly disappointed in their decision not to criminally charge Officer Brantley Vinson for his actions in taking the life of Keith Lamont Scott,” the family said in a statement. The district attorney sought to dispel what he called speculation and erroneous information that helped fuel the protests earlier this fall. Scott’s family and people who claimed to witness the shooting disputed that he had a weapon. Some said Scott was shot by a white officer, rather than Vinson, who is black. Murray showed surveillance footage from a local convenience store Scott visited shortly before the police confrontation that showed a bulge in his pants near his right ankle. “The bulge you can see here is consistent with the holster and gun that was later described by officers and located at the scene,” the prosecutor said. “All of the credible and available evidence suggests that he was, in fact, armed,” Murray added. He said analysis of all the officers’ guns also confirmed that Vinson fired the bullets that killed Scott. The officers described Scott as having a blank stare “as if he was in a trance-like state,” Murray said. His demeanor was consistent with the side effects of a medication Scott’s wife confirmed he had been taking, the prosecutor said. The shooting made Charlotte another flashpoint in two years of protests over police killings of black men, many of them unarmed, across the country. A day after Scott was killed, demonstrators took to the streets in the upscale urban area known as “Uptown,” where some looted businesses, smashed windows and blocked traffic. Dozens of people were arrested, and a man was fatally shot amid the chaos.
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