Keith Lamont Scott Released Charlotte Tapes Reportedly Ambiguous, This Helps The Cops
No Definitive Visual Evidence of Gun, But Belief By Cops Could Still Be Reasonable
Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney has just announced that he will be releasing portions of the two videos relating to the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, but that the tapes provide no definitive visual evidence that the suspect had a gun. There’s no absolute certainty, he said.
But the shooting may nevertheless be legally justified even if the officer could not be sure that the suspect had a gun, since the officer who shot need only have a reasonable belief that a gun was present.
More precisely, the officer can be found guilty only if the prosecutor can prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the officer’s belief that the suspect was holding a gun was unreasonable.
Moreover, although some have argued that the gun may have been present, but that it hadn’t been pointed towards anyone, that question may be irrelevant as well as misleading in light of a recent study.
That study shows that, because of delays caused by reaction time, officers should not wait until a subject holding a gun actually points it at someone, and that shooting before that happens meets the reasonable test the U.S. Supreme Court has established, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf.
Banzhaf has taught the law of self defense for more than 40 years, provided legal analysis to justify the self defense shootings of New York’s “subway shooter” Bernhard Goetz, DC’s “jacuzzi shooter” Carl Rowan as well as others, and correctly predicted the outcomes of many recent police killing cases, as well as the Zimmerman verdict.
Putney recently emphasized the issue of “pointing”: “what I can tell you that I saw … the video does not give me absolute definitive visual evidence that would confirm that a person is pointing a gun.”
But a very careful study shows that even well trained police officers, if they wait until a suspect they are holding at gunpoint actually begins to point his weapon, will usually be shot and perhaps even killed before they can fire their own already-drawn weapons.
The study’s findings “serve to illustrate the extreme danger that armed suspects present to police officers. . . . Even when a police officer has his or her gun aimed at [an armed] suspect and the suspect is not aiming at the officer, the officer is still in extreme danger,” the study reported.
The study concludes that “the reasonableness standard [set forth by Graham v. Connor] is based on what a well-trained, prudent officer would do in a given situation. . . . Our results show that even well-trained officers . . . with their guns aimed at a suspect cannot reasonably be expected” to react faster than a suspect can raise his or her gun and fire.
Moreover, although the study does not emphasize this additional aspect, an officer’s life would be in danger even if he somehow managed to get off the first shot before the subject was able to shoot.
Even the best placed shot to the chest, which is where the officers are trained to shoot, would normally not kill the suspect in time to prevent him from getting off his own shot.
That, for example, is why snipers in situations where hostages are being held at gunpoint, are trained to avoid shooting if possible, and to use precisely-aimed head shots if necessary.
Indeed, most shots by the police would not take effect quickly enough to totally incapacitate a suspect so as to prevent him from first firing one or even more shots, says Banzhaf.