One of the responding officers involved in the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, N.C., failed to activate his body camera as soon as he responded on the scene, violating department policy and displacing crucial evidence, the Washington Post reports.
As the Post notes, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department released two videos late Saturday. The body-camera video, which is in question, shows an officer who seems to be shouting, with his weapon drawn, as he and the officer wearing the body camera stand behind Scott's vehicle. The officer with the camera can then be seen hitting Scott's truck with his baton. Scott then gets out of his vehicle, an officer not seen on the video fires four shots, and Scott is hit and falls to the ground.
However, none of those first 30 seconds of the video have audio, and thus, details of what actually happened immediately leading up to and at the time of the shooting are severely lacking. The lack of audio also means that the officer did not turn on his camera until after the shooting, when the audio begins, the Post reports.
According to the Post, the type of body cameras used by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg officers have a "buffer" function, which saves only 30 seconds of video (without audio) before the camera is activated. When the officer manually activates the camera, audio begins to record.
“When you go on duty, you turn the camera on. But when you turn the camera on, it is only in the buffer mode,” Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser, which makes the Axon Flex body cameras used by the officers, told the Post. “What it’s doing is recording nothing but video. It’s recording constantly, but it’s only saving the last 30 seconds of video.”
To record audio and to begin saving video, the officer must double-tap a large button on the camera. That is when the camera begins to record all audio and video, but it also automatically saves the video from the 30 seconds prior to activation.
“When you watch some of these videos, they are totally silent for 30 seconds,” Tuttle explained. “Then you instantly hear the double beep, and that was the very instant the person double-clicked the event button."
As the Post notes, the double beep and the audio are not heard until after officers shot Scott.
“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 Sunday, according to the Post. “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.”
Had the camera been activated as soon as the unidentified officer exited his vehicle, Bamberg emphasized, it could have recorded video that may have shown clearly what Scott was doing inside his vehicle, and whether a weapon was indeed in his hands before he got out of his vehicle—something that is still a point of major contention.
“Information that we could have had is forever gone because of this officer’s failure to follow department policy and procedures,” Bamberg said. “Those policies exist for a reason, and there is a reason the CMPD equips its officers with body cameras—because body cameras provide visual evidence so that when tragic things do happen, we don’t have to question exactly what happened.”
Read more at the Washington Post.