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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Decision On Charges In Charlotte Police Shooting. Aired 11- 11:30a ET
Aired November 30, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDREW MURRAY, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, MECKLENBURG COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA: -- the ankle holster. Officer Miranda began yelling drop the gun, drop the gun. Officer Hofstetler, he's the officer in uniform, ran to the SUV, in the regular uniform, ran to the SUV and tried to break the passenger side window with a baton.
As he did this, he reported seeing Mr. Scott holding a gun in his right hand as he was seated in the SUV. After Officer Hofstetler broke the window, Officer Miranda said he saw Mr. Scott take a deep breath and exit the SUV.
Officers Vincent, Hofstetler, Wiggins and Sergeant Pendergraft all saw the gun in Mr. Scott's hand after exiting the vehicle. However, as everyone here is aware, none of the video recordings, the dashcam, the body-worn camera or Mrs. Scott's cellphone video clearly capture Mr. Scott's hands.
What is clearly captured on video is Mr. Scott's right ankle. When he exits the SUV, you can see that his right pant leg is pulled up above the ankle. This is the same spot where you can see a bulge in his pant leg in the convenience store surveillance footage and the same place on his ankle where police recovered a holster following the shooting.
Here, the bulge, here, the ankle, goes along with what Officer Miranda indicated, he reached down and pulled it out. You see what appears to be a holster (inaudible).
Also captured on all videos are the repeated commands from officers for Mr. Scott to drop the gun. Based on the dash cam video footage and Mrs. Scott's video, officers can be heard at least ten times commanding Mr. Scott to drop the gun.
The videos also show that Mr. Scott did not comply with those commands. In interviews, officers described Mr. Scott's behavior during this incident. Those descriptions included that he had a blank stare as if he was in a trance-like state.
This behavior is consistent with the known side effects of medication prescribed to Mr. Scott. Additional side effects are aggression and behavior abnormalities.
I'm going to show you a picture of Officer Vincent and where he was in proximity to Mr. Scott when he exited the vehicle. This is from the body-worn camera of Officer Hofstetler who had broken the window. Officer Vincent here gets in what I call the jeep, the white SUV of Mr. Scott, the police van that comes up and pins Mr. Scott here in close proximity.
There has been some speculation in the community -- I'm sorry. I missed a slide. Officer Vincent could see that Mr. Scott continued to not comply with the officers' commands and in his interview, he described the moment that he perceived that Mr. Scott posed an imminent threat.
Mr. Scott looked at Vincent then looked in the direction of each officer and then looked back at Vincent. I'm going to play for you Officer Vincent's interview this portion.
MURRAY: So at this point, I'm going to take you through Officer Vincent did not know Mr. Scott. None of the officers knew Mr. Scott. None of them had had contact with Mr. Scott. But what did Officer Vincent know?
Officer Vincent was aware that Mr. Scott had a gun in his vehicle. He was aware that he had marijuana in his vehicle. He was aware that when he pinned the car, that Mr. Scott chose to draw that weapon and had it in his hand.
He was aware that after repeated commands, Mr. Scott did not obey those commands, acted with aberrant behavior, stepped out of the vehicle with gun in hand, doesn't run, doesn't drop the gun, doesn't leave the gun in the car, but steps out and steps back, assessing each officer with a trance-like look described by Officer Vincent.
How about Mr. Scott at that point? Well, Officer Vincent did not know Mr. Scott, had not seen him, so unbeknownst to him, Mr. Scott was aware that he was a convicted felon with a gun, an illegal gun, and that he had warrants out for him in Gaston County and that he had police officers in tactical gear, weapons drawn, surrounding his vehicle.
It's at this point that Officer Vincent fired his weapon four times, striking Mr. Scott in the wrist, abdomen and rear shoulder. Despite officers and medical personnel's attempts to render aid, Mr. Scott unfortunately passed away.
I'm going to show you a medical examiner -- what the medical examiner did for us, and that is a -- what's the correct term? A mannequin, where the ME put the trajectory of the bullets. Now, we know that there were four shots because you hear four shots in rapid succession on the video.
We also know because Officer Vincent says that he fired. We also know it because there are four shell casings that are around in proximity to Officer Vincent. The medical examiner could not tell us the sequence of the projectiles. One in the wrist that we don't show, one in the wrist is not what we call a clear through-and-through because there are pieces of the bullet in the wrist. The one in the abdomen goes into the abdomen on the left side, travels through and comes to rest at the spine, at the lower level.
The one in the upper shoulder travels from left to right and front to back. Begins at the shoulder, seven inches from the midline of the back, travels down, through and ends up at the abdomen at the front part.
So there has been much speculation as the first shot being a shot in the back. The totality of the evidence does not come close to supporting that.
The medical examiner can't say the sequence of the shootings, but if you look at where Officer Vincent was located, and then you look at the video, we can conclude that one of the shots before the shot in the shoulder was to the abdomen causing Mr. Scott to keel over, causing a shot after to go through the shoulder and the trajectory ends in the front of the abdomen.
[11:10:11]There has been some speculation in the community regarding whether Mr. Scott was armed. I would like to address those specific concerns. All of the credible and available evidence suggests that he was, in fact, armed.
Here's the evidence that leads us to that conclusion. Prior to my action -- prior to any action being taken, Officer Vincent told Sergeant Pendergraft that he saw Mr. Scott with a gun and Sergeant Pendergraft relayed that information over the radio.
That's the radio traffic you heard a few minutes ago. Every officer present reporting seeing Mr. Scott holding a gun. Officers can be heard on video repeatedly commanding Mr. Scott to drop the gun.
The idea that Mr. Scott was unarmed does not explain why officers acted defensively, had their guns drawn and ordered him to drop the gun. Everyone who has seen the video of the incident can feel the tension in that situation.
According to Officer Wiggins, after Mr. Scott was shot, he fell to the ground and his gun landed near his waistline. Officer Wiggins said he moved the gun away from Mr. Scott and stood over the gun to ensure that it could not be accessed by Mr. Scott.
On the dash cam video, on the dash cam (inaudible) and Officer Hatler's body cam, Officer Wiggins is seen crouching down, reaching with one hand and moving something from Mr. Scott.
You do not see the ground. You see Officer Wiggins crouch down, this arm move, and step back and then stand there. Kind of unusually. Other people -- other officers start tending to Mr. Scott. He is standing there awkwardly.
Mrs. Scott's video you can see an object between his feet in the same place where we see the firearm and body-worn camera footage from another officer who responded to the scene just after the shooting.
He stands there, you can see something, you don't know what it is, an officer comes up immediately afterwards with body cam. He is going -- the officers tell him clear the car. You can see him going to the car to look to make sure there's nobody else in it. The cars are cleared and it's his body cam, it's clearly detected, officer standing over the gun.
Mr. Scott's DNA was found on the slide of the gun and on the grip of the gun. Again, his DNA was found on the slide of the gun and on the grip of the gun. Mr. Scott's fingerprint was found on the gun when it was examined by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Crime Lab.
However, the state crime lab did not find that print to be of value meaning they did not find it to be significant enough to be able to say if it was Mr. Scott's. There's a reason for that.
The Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department uses a certain technology, they use that technology. They made the determination when they send it to the State Bureau of Investigation. They send a disc along with a card, a lower resolution card.
The State Bureau of Investigation has different technology. It's like you sending me something to open on some great program you have and I don't have it, I can on it. The FBI had to look at the lower resolution and they found they could not make a determination based on that.
Mr. Scott's gun, a Colt .380 semiautomatic, was recovered at the scene. It had one round in the chamber. The safety was off and the gun was cocked. There's the gun, safety off, cocked and later it was found a bullet live in the chamber.
Investigators traced Mr. Scott's gun which was stolen from a Gaston County home, then illegally sold to Mr. Scott on September 2nd. The seller admitted that he sold the gun to Mr. Scott in a Facebook conversation between the seller and a third party corroborates this information.
Basically the seller saw what we all saw on the video of the incident that was being displayed and said I know that guy and I know that gun. I'm now going to show you excerpts from that conversation he's talking to a third party, talking about what he saw on the TV.
[11:15:09]Through the report that will be released today, you will be able to read the entire conversation between the seller and the third party. I will never sell another one. The hammer is cocked back. That's the seller.
He had an ankle holster. I hope he wiped my prints off of it. Third party, (inaudible) me, too. I can get time for that and they would burn me. Third party, I was really hoping it wouldn't be the one but you know, I'm going to pray for the best on that for you, Cuz.
Ty, I have learned, means thank you. I'm still hurt. I feel like it's my fault he is dead. The seller also revealed that he sold a holster to Mr. Scott with modifications that matched those found on the holster Mr. Scott was wearing.
Here's the holster. He said he modified it. When he was showing the holster he says oh, yes, (inaudible). The seller went to Gander Mountain with Mr. Scott on the same day he sold it, where Mr. Scott purchased a magazine and ammunition for the firearm.
Agents located a computer transaction receipt for the magazine and ammunition and the purchase was made with a debit card ending in the numbers that matched the debit card found in Mr. Scott's wallet.
Text messages from Mr. Scott's phone show that on September 10th, he and the seller communicated about returning or exchanging a clip at Gander Mountain because the one he had purchased was too short, it wasn't working in the gun.
If you see the gun, it doesn't have a clip in it. A .380 ammunition was located in Mr. Scott's vehicle inside a pack of cigarettes in the center (inaudible) cup holder. (Inaudible) pack of cigarettes (inaudible).
Lot of rounds, .380 to fit the gun. A reading book was not found in the front or back seats of Mr. Scott's SUV. A composition notebook belonging to Mrs. Scott was found wedged between the center console and the front passenger seat.
It did not match the description given by witnesses who claimed that they saw Mr. Scott with a book. I would like to address erroneous claims that someone other than Officer Vincent shot Mr. Scott.
First, Officer Vincent took responsibility for the shooting from the outset. Every officer's gun was seized and ammunition count was conducted by investigators. Each one had a full complement of ammunition with the exception of Officer Vincent, who was four rounds short of a full complement.
In the videos, the sound of four rounds is clearly heard and four shell casings were recovered at the scene. Each officer is issued a firearm with a unique serial number. Officer Vincent's gun as well as the four shell casings were sent to the lab for analysis.
An expert firearms analyst found that the four shell casings were fired from Officer Vincent's gun. Nine civilian witnesses were interviewed by investigators. Some of these witnesses gave conflicting statements as well as statements that are unsupported by video or physical evidence.
Three of these witnesses claimed on social media or in media interviews that Scott was unarmed, but the FBI later determined they had not actually seen the shooting. When they were interviewed by FBI later, they said they did not actually see the shootings despite their claims on social media or with the media.
One told reporters that she was an eyewitness and saw a white officer shoot Mr. Scott and that Officer Vincent wasn't around at the time of the shooting. She later acknowledged to the FBI that she heard officers telling Mr. Scott to drop the gun, but she didn't see the shooting.
Another told reporters that she saw Mr. Scott with his hands raised, stepped over a book that fell from his lap. Those statements are refuted by the video evidence and she later told the FBI that she was in her apartment at the time of the shooting and didn't see Mr. Scott until after the shooting had occurred and she never saw a book or a gun.
[11:20:09]A juvenile under the age of 16 told investigators that he saw the incident from his apartment. He initially told Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department that Mr. Scott was reading a book when officers tried to break his window.
He said Mr. Scott put the book down and exited the SUV, empty-handed with his hands wide open. In a later interview with FBI, he shared that information again and added that officers said they were going to tase Mr. Scott and he was actually tased by police.
He also said the officer did not say anything to Mr. Scott when he exited his vehicle and that a white officer shot him. The physical evidence does not support those claims and when questioned on some of these issues, this witness referenced someone's claim in a YouTube video and it became apparent that he had incorporated information he had heard from other sources.
Investigators also went to his home to examine his vantage point. What they discovered is that it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, to make those observations due to the obstruction of a tree and the positioning of Mr. Scott's SUV.
Basically from his apartment, there's a tree and it is the passenger side of Mr. Scott's vehicle. He would have had to see through the tree and through the passenger side to see anything occurring on the other side of the vehicle.
Two witnesses said they were inside of a nearby home and watched the incident unfold. They heard the officers' commands to drop the gun. Both indicated they saw something in Mr. Scott's hand but they could not identify the object.
They had a view but because of their distance, they say that he had something in his hands, but they can't say what was in his hand. Another witness was working in the area, heard the officers' shouts but turned away when the shots were fired.
Mrs. Scott has maintained that her husband was unarmed during the encounter. It's important to understand that we must consider her statements and weigh them along with all of the other evidence in this case.
Charlotte Mecklenburg detectives began to interview Mrs. Scott at the hospital on the evening of the shooting. But she ultimately terminated that interview on the advice of her attorney.
She and her attorneys later publicly claimed that CMPD never attempted to interview her. Before that interview ended, she told CMPD that four white officers were present. All four fired their weapons and there were no black officers present.
The brief interview was captured on a body-worn camera. Later in the interview, with CBS News, she stated that Officer Vincent who is black, was present but she did not believe he shot her husband, Mr. Scott, because he was not part of the action.
Mrs. Scott did later meet with the FBI for an interview and she provided valuable information about her husband's medications and their effects. She said that Mr. Scott had just taken his medicine and that those prescriptions make him zoned.
Mrs. Scott has maintained in interviews with investigators and the media that Mr. Scott did not have a gun. She told the FBI that the last time she ever knew Scott to have any type of firearm was prior to his arrest in October 2015 and she was certain he did not have any guns after January 2016.
However, text messages between Mr. and Mrs. Scott the month before the shooting include an argument about a gun in Mr. Scott's possession. In the report that we are putting online, you will find limited information regarding Mr. Scott's background and medical history.
While he had a criminal history and was receiving treatment for psychiatric disorders, his history was unknown to Officer Vincent. In this case, it would be merely speculative to assess whether this history explained Mr. Scott's conduct on the day of the incident.
In conclusion, after a thorough review and given the totality of the circumstances and credible evidence in this case, it is my opinion that Officer Vincent acted lawfully when he shot Mr. Scott. He acted lawfully.
[11:25:04]I am fully satisfied and entirely convinced that Officer Vincent's use of deadly force was lawful. The central issue here is whether Officer Vincent was lawful in using deadly force against Mr. Scott.
Anyone is justified in using deadly force if he reasonably believed and in fact, believed that he or someone else was in imminent danger of great bodily injury or death.
We cannot know what Mr. Scott's intentions or reasoning were that day. Officer Vincent could not know that at the time. What he saw was a man who had drawn a gun when confronted by police, exited a vehicle with a gun in hand, and failed to comply with officers who commanded him at least ten times to put the gun down.
When considering imminent threat, it's important to consider the response time and reaction time. The reality is that Mr. Scott could have raised his gun and killed Officer Vincent or another officer before any of them could have reacted to the threat.
Reaction time studies dealing with police shootings provide valuable insight for the analysis of this shooting and these studies are cited in the report. Those studies show that in these scenarios the result is a tie at best. Even officers in a position of ready, watching somebody, if they're armed with a gun to their side, by the time they do this, the reaction from officers has to be from the brain to the trigger finger and the studies say it is tie at best.
When considering -- I'm sorry. I think there's a misconception out there about the scope of the review in the DA's office. This office did not examine whether an officer followed CMPD directives or policies or whether the incident was handled appropriately from a tactical standpoint.
In this case, the only determination this office is making is whether or not Officer Vincent acted in self-defense. Now I would like to speak to the community. I know that some out there are going to be frustrated.
I want everyone in this community to know that we meticulously, thoroughly reviewed all of the evidence in this case, made sure it was credible evidence, in order to make the decision that we made today.
We took a lot of painstaking effort to make certain that there was no personal bias in the review and that public opinion did not factor in our determination. I would like the community to a collective pause.
The community should read the report, digest the report. Police did not act viscerally on news snippets. Read the report. Described in the legal analysis, the basis for this decision, in this case we find ourselves in the position of correcting misinformation that has been shared both on social media and in the news media.
People made claims on camera but later admitted to law enforcement that they didn't actually see the incident. People and the public might then ask themselves, why didn't you release more information to refute these untrue statements?
I have always asserted that my office would strive towards transparency, but I need people to understand that among my highest priorities is also protecting the integrity of every investigation. That means responsible transparency.
In an ongoing investigation, details are closely guarded to help measure the truthfulness of witnesses and should someone be charged, preserve the defendant's right to fair trial.
I know a lack of accurate information is frustrating to the public and the media that operates on a 24-hour news cycle, but in this age of instant media and the impulse to immediately form an opinion, I'm asking that as we move forward, we remind ourselves that in these cases, we should not jump to conclusions until we have all of the facts.
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. This is not the city that we love, but it is. This is Charlotte.