Ron Martinelli, Ph.D.
Forensic Criminologist/Police Expert
Copyright © 09-26-16
In light of the most recent officer-involved fatality shooting of subject Keith Lamont Scott, 43 years in Charlotte, NC; and the protests and violent, riotous response from citizens both within and outside of the Charlotte community; the question looms as to whether police will ever be able to communicate effectively with members and supporters of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
As a forensic expert who specializes in the independent investigation of officer-involved death cases nationally; I have been carefully and intently observing how the officer-involved shooting (OIS) of Keith Scott has unfolded. I am particularly interested in observing and analyzing how the Charlotte Police Department and leaders from city and state government have responded to members of the black community, peaceful protesters, and the more radical and violent elements of the Marxist, anti-police Black Lives Matter movement.
The case evolves. What the evidence suggests.
As you may already know, on September 20, 2016, Charlotte police were engaged in the attempted service of a felony warrant at the Village of College Downs apartment complex in the 9600 block of Old Concord Road just before 4:00 pm when they encountered Scott, who was not involved in the warrant service. The police report that officers observed Scott to emerge from the passenger side of a vehicle holding a gun. They then observed him to re-enter the vehicle.
Police report that when they attempted to contact Scott, he exited the vehicle while holding the weapon. Scott’s wife Rakeyia Scott, who was apparently nearby with a cell phone, began to video record the officers’ encounter with her husband. Mrs. Scott’s video, which was just released last Friday, forensically documents her repeatedly screaming out to and begging her husband, “Keith. Keith. Don’t do it!” and to “Come out the car!” (Video time stamps: 00:41 – 00:42; 00:46 – 00:53) immediately before black Police Officer Brentley Vinson fired upon Scott (Video time stamps 00:54 – 00:56).
Very importantly, Mrs. Scott’s video also provides forensic evidence of a couple key issues:
(1) parked vehicles on the street obstructed her from accurately seeing what her husband was doing during the police encounter and whether or not he was holding anything in his hands. This is despite the fact that she can be heard telling officers, who could see Scott, that her husband wasn’t armed and telling them not to shoot her husband (Video time stamps: 00:06 – 00:12);
(2) Mrs. Scott can be clearly heard to repeatedly beg Scott “Don’t do it!” and to get out of his vehicle. This begs the question that if Scott wasn’t armed as the family represents; then why is Mrs. Scott repeatedly begging her husband “Don’t do it!” immediately before Officer Vinson reported that he felt that Scott threatened his life when he fired upon him. What is the context of her exclamations and who are they directed to? Don’t do what?
(3) The audio from the video forensically records that the involved officers yelled out commands to Scott to drop his gun on at least thirteen occasions within a forty-second period during the encounter. The timing sequence of their repeated force warnings indicate that the officers used trained de-escalation techniques such as enhanced officer presence; dialogue; and submission-resistance recognition to deescalate the high-risk encounter (Video time stamps: 00:13 – 00:16; 00:18; 00:20; 00:23; 0026; 00:30; 00:40; 00:45; 00:50 and 00:53);
(4) at thirty-two seconds into the encounter, one of the involved officers is heard to yell out for a baton. This in an indication of the officer(s)’ desire to use a less than lethal force option as an intervention mechanism to either breach the window of the vehicle; and/or to strike Scott (Video time stamp: 00:32).
The temporal relationship between Mrs. Scott yelling out to her husband, “Don’t do it!” and the audio report of shots being fired (00:01 second) is both troubling and might be forensically revealing. None of these key forensic and police practices issues and evidence supporting the fact pattern have been contextually discussed by police or the media. The lack of information by police and the misinformation introduced from questionable “witnesses” by the media has been problematic and increased the level of frustration and aggressiveness by protesters.
Charlotte police now report that they have forensic evidence that Scott’s blood, DNA and fingerprints were recovered from a loaded handgun they report he was holding that was recovered next to his body immediately following the shooting. Scott was also wearing an ankle holster on his right leg. While family member(s) have represented that Scott had no gun and was merely holding a “book;” the police report that no books were found at the crime scene. In fact, one video and a photo of the crime scene that was leaked to the media clearly documents the presence of a black semi-automatic handgun next to Scott’s body on the pavement in the street. It is interesting to note that even though the news media had this photo early in the investigation, they did not show it until last Saturday when police released their video. This is despite the fact that they repeatedly allowed questionable and highly inaccurate statements from Scott’s wife and children to be aired asserting that Scott was unarmed and only holding a book.
Although the initial OIS was being investigated by the Charlotte PD’s Homicide Unit, the investigation has been turned over to the North Carolina Bureau of Investigation.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney, who, like shooting officer Brentley Vinson, is black, has told the public that the involved officers felt that their lives were being threatened by Scott when Officer Vinson shot Scott. After the shooting, Scott was transported to a local hospital where he later died.
As things stand now, the evidence is doubtful that any criminal charges will be filed against Officer Vinson in the shooting of Keith Scott and the county prosecutors’ office may ultimately determine that Scott’s shooting was justifiable.
Police officials created more problems for themselves and their city by not releasing information about the evidence gathered, including the dashcam and body cam videos earlier and thus allowing the false narratives of Scott’s family and members of Black Lives Matter to take hold. After reviewing the evidence, the police should have known that nothing they released would have compromised any criminal case or due process involving Officer Vinson. Each officer-involved death case is unique and must be viewed in that manner. Where known and forensically confirmed evidence that might refute false statements and do not compromise an investigation exist; they should be released. This is that case.
A public records search reveals that Keith Scott was no stranger to committing crimes of violence. In 2004, Scott had been arrested and convicted a number of times for violent crimes and weapon charges to include assault with a deadly weapon which was pled down from a felony assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill; child abuse; assault on a female and communicating threats. In 1995, Scott was arrested on a charge of felony assault with intent to commit murder. In 1992, Scott was again arrested for aggravated assault. Scott apparently later worked out a plea bargain with the County Prosecutor and eventually pled guilty to carrying a concealed weapon (not a firearm) and assault. Scott’s criminal record exemplifies the pattern of a violent criminal recidivist and is a theme with people who resist detention, arrest and threaten the lives of police and innocent citizens.
This is not a biased analysis of this officer-involved shooting incident; but a clear articulation of what is more than likely the forensic facts of this case to date.
How do police communicate with people with a “Black Lives Matter mentality?”
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) organization is a confirmed radical, Marxist organization that is global in scope and nationally and internationally funded. The BLM is blatantly anti-police and anti-democratic government. Their stated objectives are to disenfranchise, diminish, defund and eventually dissolve the law enforcement community in America that protects citizens by enforcing the democratic Rule of Law. They believe that if they can breakdown the relationship between law enforcement and communities, they will be able to ultimately usurp our democratic and constitutional form of government, in favor of a Marxist based model that is observed in communist countries such as Cuba and Russia.
In short, the BLM has absolutely no desire to have any meaningful, engaging and productive dialogue with law enforcement, or representatives of any democratic based government. That is simply not what they are about or interested in. They and those who resonate with the BLM mentality are also not interested in forensic facts. They prefer an emotional reaction, rather than any considered or informed response to incidents of fatal encounters between police and members of the minority community. The OIS incident involving Keith Scott in Charlotte demonstrates this type of mentality.
Unfortunately, when police and city government leaders do not understand how to properly present the context of an officer-involved death case to the public; they lose a unique opportunity to properly advance a factual narrative to the mainstream citizenry and the media. This then allows the BLM, their surrogates and supporters to more forcefully advance their own false narratives. This in turn results in an increase in distrust of law enforcement and tumultuous and riotous behavior where innocent people are injured and property is damaged. The Charlotte experience is a text book example of how uninformed police and city government officials who had no plan to deal with the eventuality of a controversial officer-involved shooting are easily overwhelmed and a city suffers as a result.
One thing that is evident when one analyzes the motivations of the Black Lives Matter movement is that only some black lives matter to them. For instances, the thousands of young black lives that are lost each year in black on black homicides do not matter to them. The lives of black police officers also do not matter to them. Why? Because neither of these black victim profiles fit into their false narratives that our “white supremacist democratic government” and the police “oppress people of color.” The language of the BLM movement is born from Marxist political doctrine where the “oppression of the people” is a central theme.
Forensic facts do not matter to members of the BLM, their surrogates and followers. It’s all about the false anti-police, anti-democratic government narratives.
Case in point. On the first night of the violent riots in downtown Charlotte, a protester identified as Justin Carr, 26 was shot in the head in front of the Omni Hotel and later died. BLM protesters were quick to report to the media and other protesters that police had shot Carr with a rubber bullet. This false narrative exacerbated the level of violence. When police denied this, some protesters came forward stating that they had witnessed police shoot Carr. However, witness Ryan James reported to police and FOX News that he had been next to Carr when Carr was shot and fell. James stated that when he turned around, he observed a black male with dreadlocks holding a raised gun from ten yards away, turn and run from the crowd. On Friday September 23rd Charlotte police reported that they had arrested a black male suspect identified as Rayquan Borum, 21 for Carr’s murder. Apparently, Borum was identified from CCTV surveillance video of the incident. Yet, another example of black on black homicide that the BLM is not interested in protesting.
During the Charlotte protests, we see protesters walking down the streets with their hands raised in “memory of Michael Brown” who was killed in Ferguson, MO by Officer Darren Wilson. We also see the ever present signs that read, “Hands up. Don’t shoot!” The problem is that this is a continuing false narrative of the BLM movement that has been forensically disproved by the FBI’s investigation of that justifiable officer-involved shooting. The BLM knows “Hands up. Don’t shoot!” is a proven false narrative; but they simply don’t care. Whatever accomplishes their goal of disenfranchising the police from the public they are down for.
Now that more information is being slowly and painfully released by authorities in Charlotte; BLM protesters and their surrogate spokespersons must adjust their narrative. A loaded gun was found near Keith Scott’s body. Their response is that police “planted the gun.” When Keith Scott’s blood, DNA and fingerprints were found on the gun, the BLM deflected and redirected the narrative to police killing victim Carr with a rubber bullet. When police arrest Carr’s killer and he’s a black man and not a cop; the BLM returns to their boisterous chants of “Stop Police Oppression!” and “Stop killing us!” and “The National Guard needs to leave Charlotte.” It never ends.
So what is the answer to dealing with the Black Lives Matter movement and their minions?
First of all, the police, municipal administrators, federal government administrators and ethical members of the media need to invest more time is researching what the Black Lives Matter movement is all about; what drives them; who funds them and what their ultimate goals and objectives are all about. Their combined ignorance is slowly destroying this nation.
All of the aforementioned are important stakeholders in the future of their communities and this nation. You simply can’t reason with people who are intent upon destroying the rule of law and its protectors. To watch city and police administrators take the naïve, low-informed and politically correct option of negotiation is both frustrating and dangerous. Instead, take a lesson from the Black Lives Matter movement’s play book.
Rule #1 – Forward truthful fact patterns and evidence as soon as possible.
Each officer-involved incident is unique; as are the dangers to the public when the public is being fed false narratives that creates and/or exacerbates distrust in law enforcement. People will not obey police whom they do not trust. This mentality leads to resistance and violence.
If you have important evidence that speaks directly to probable cause of either a justifiable shooting; or a criminal act on the part of police; make the appropriate statements and get the correct and truthful narrative out there as soon as possible. If you don’t, others, like the BLM movement, Occupy, Anarchists and Communists, intent upon creating violent disruption, will get their false narratives out there first. Just ask the city and police administrators in Charlotte how their game plan has worked for them so far.
Rule #2 – Know who you can work with and who you can’t.
Anyone who espouses a radical, militant, Marxist anti-law enforcement platform; deliberately lies about police encounters to diminish police authority and create unnecessary public resistance; and openly chants violent slogans like, “What do we want? Dead cops. When do we want it? Now!” and “Pigs in a blanket. Fry’em like bacon” does not deserve the time, effort or courtesy of dialogue.
Don’t waste time and energy working with those organizations and political activists who are committed to working against you. Instead, reach out to those influential people and organizations who you think are willing to listen, dialogue and work for positive change. Community trust in and cooperation with policing is a two-way street. Both sides have to work to improve their mutual relationship. Like any relationship, it needs to be mutually maintained to get better.
Rule #3 – Have a comprehensive plan to disenfranchise Black Lives Matter activists from the community.
The community and protesters have a constitutional right to protest legitimate concerns. That is the American way of life. Peaceful protests should be recognized and cooperated with. However, police and government leaders need to inform the public about how destructive the BLM movement is to their community. Municipal and police administrators need to develop a comprehensive plan to diminish the BLM’s effectiveness by pointing out their false narratives; Marxist ideology; their outside funding sources and their ultimate designs for law enforcement, the Rule of Law and democratic government.
Literally every city that the BLM has protested in has been devastated by vandalism, looting, crime and long-term post protest crime. Their presence is clearly not beneficial to a peaceful community.
The answer here is simple and effective if done right. Follow Rule #2 and work with credible and influential leaders of the minority community to have a unified stance in disavowing the Black Lives Matter movement. It takes heroic courage to publicly assert in front of the public and the media that the BLM movement is destructive to communities and bring nothing to the table of race and police-community relations. This clearly needs to be done early on and before BLM can muster its forces to advance their false narratives and create havoc. A unified front includes minority members of the clergy, business, government, social service and professional sports communities. The highly impressionable younger public need to see and be directed by high profile minority leaders and role models towards peaceful protest and productive dialogue; rather than by anger, militancy, racial and police hatred of the BLM movement.
Rule #4 – The public needs to understand that they also have a historical, implied bias of police.
While in some instances, that bias was created by officious officers who over-stepped their authority; police are now better educated and trained. In most urban cities, the ethnicity of officers match those of the communities they police.
The public needs to recognize that often, it is they who need to “deescalate,” calm down and stop resisting police when contacted. Literally all of the most notable fatal contacts between police and the subjects they contacted who died in the encounter were involved in some level of life threatening resistance. Michael Brown, 18 (Ferguson, MO); Sylville Smith, 23 (Milwaukee, WS); Alton Sterling, 37 (Baton Rouge, LO) and now Keith Scott are all examples of subjects who unnecessarily resisted officers and presented a deadly force threat to police when they were killed. People need to be taught to understand that unnecessary and threatening resistance during police encounters brings about unintended and often deadly consequences; especially when it’s armed resistance. It is absolutely disgraceful that students in America are not even taught basic civics anymore where they learn about government, the Rule of Law and law enforcement’s role and authority in protecting citizens by enforcing our laws.
Rule #5 – Stop coddling anarchists, rioters and violent protesters – Do your job!
There is a saying, “Life is rough; but it’s rougher when you’re foolish.” Just how many recent examples do urban police need before they learn that elements like Black Lives Matter, Occupy, the Communist Workers Party and assorted local and out of state troublemakers who come to town wearing helmets, masks over their faces and carrying rocks, bricks and bottles, intend to create havoc, injury and destruction?
Police in Charlotte found last week that over 70% of all of the violent protesters they have arrested have come from outside of the Charlotte area. This was pretty close to the percentage of rioters in Ferguson and Baltimore who burglarized, looted and burned businesses; destroyed patrol cars and injured police officers and innocent citizens. Police need to be much better informed, trained and equipped to deal with today’s highly mobile, social media savvy and cell phone equipped violent protesters and rioters.
One goal of policing is to be firm but fair; yet prioritize the safety and security of the community over political correctness. The bottom line is that police cannot allow peaceful or violent protesters to take over freeways. They cannot allow violent protesters to weaponize with rock, brick, bottle projectiles and other more dangerous weapons and threaten police and civilians.
Police cannot allow anyone to vandalize, burglarize, loot and burn private property and police vehicles. It’s just this simple – we need police to do their job and protect us. Police administrators need to demonstrate assertive, yet compassionate leadership. They need to quit second guessing themselves and stop apologizing for assertively doing what is reasonable and needed to do to quickly restore order in their communities. If they fail in this community caretaking obligation, their communities will suffer like those of Ferguson, Baltimore and now Charlotte and others.
I have been on the front line in a number of protests with “hardline” demonstrators intent upon creating havoc. We never let them get that far because we had good leadership and direction. We used intelligence, demonstration and riot training, good equipment and overwhelming force. We put the media into a designated area where they could observe, but not be harmed. Cameras beget resistance and violence. Aggressive protesters want “their moment in the media lights.” Just look at how many of the aggressive protestors were posturing in front of the cameras and doing “selfies” as they engaged the police line.
Police need to identify protest leaders and provide them with peaceful protest guidelines as is their right. They need to tell everyone that they will not tolerate weapons, intimidation and aggressive acts in the protest area. Police need to use intelligence gathering to identify the peaceful from the aggressive protesters; then separate the troublemakers from the herd and arrest them before things get out of hand.
Having an overwhelming police presence is always preferable to not having sufficient police and tactical equipment to control a protest that can evolve into a riot at a moment’s notice. Charlotte should have learned this lesson by now.
Next, just because police avoid a violent confrontation with protesters by letting them take over certain parts of a city and close freeways in no way means the police prevailed. It only tells protesters what police will allow them to get away with. Next time, protesters can completely take over all freeways and access points into a city; effectively isolating a police force from emergency police and medical assistance. This creates a deadly circumstance for police and innocent citizens. This “tactic” is sheer lunacy.
It is high time that the historically archaic thinking model of police administrators change from a “reactive” to a more learned “proactive” model when dealing with contemporary police issues such as their response to police-involved death cases and radical, destructive movements such as Black Lives Matter.
It is critical that law enforcement communicate effectively with the general public. That is law enforcement’s mission. However, police need to be smarter and do their homework about radical, militant groups like Black Lives Matter when considering whether or not attempts at meaningful dialogue would ultimately be productive.
About the Author
Ron Martinelli, Ph.D., CMI-V, is a nationally renowned forensic criminologist/police expert who directs a Forensic Death Investigations & Independent Review Team. He is a retired San Jose (CA) Police Department detective who has investigated nearly 300 officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths. He is the author of the new book, “The Truth Behind the Black Lives Matter Movement and the War on Police,” (Amazon.com).
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