Crucial evidence in the police shooting death of a 43-year-old Black man is not available because one of the officers failed to activate his body camera as soon as he responded to the incident, The Washington Post reports.
The move is in violation of department policy.
On Saturday, Charlotte police released two videos after four days of sometimes violent protests in the city over the death of Scott, who police say had a gun. His family contends that he was unarmed.
Neither video is conclusive on that question.
The body camera video begins by showing a Charlotte police officer with his gun drawn, who appears to be yelling as he and the officer wearing the body camera stand behind Scott’s vehicle. The officer with the camera then can be seen striking Scott’s truck with his baton. Scott exits the vehicle, four shots are fired by an officer who is not visible on the video and Scott falls to the ground.
The recording officer retreats back behind the truck, then advances toward Scott’s dying body. But none of the moments in the first half a minute of the bodycam footage have audio, indicating the officer, who has not been identified, did not turn on his camera until after the Sept. 20 shooting when audio begins.
Officers with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department are equipped with Axon Flex body cameras made by Taser. Last year, the city spent more than $7 million to buy and implement the use of 1,385 of the cameras, making Charlotte the first major city in North Carolina to arm all of its patrol officers with body-worn cameras.
When turned on, the cameras come with a “buffer” function that saves only 30 seconds of soundless video filmed. However, audio does not begin to be recorded until the moment an officer manually activates the camera.
The department’s body camera policy states that officers must fully activate their cameras “prior to or in anticipation of” interactions with civilians resulting from traffic stops, suspicious vehicle/persons investigations, arrests, use of force incidents and/or voluntary investigative conduct (which is defined as “the mere suspicion of some type of criminal activity by a person”).
Police say officers saw Scott with a gun, prompting the plainclothes officers to leave the area, put on vests and then return to detain Scott. Those officers did not have cameras and another officer responding to the call soon arrived. Department policy states the officer should have activated his camera as soon as he left his vehicle. Instead, he waited for at least 45 seconds, maybe longer.
“We’ve been saying from the beginning that our goal is to find out what happened and exactly why Mr. Scott lost his life,” Justin Bamberg, an attorney for Scott’s family said in an interview Sunday. “It’s evident from the body camera footage that was released, based on how these cameras operate, that the officer did not hit the button to begin recording until after Mr. Scott had already been shot.”