Why Do Armed White Guys Get Arrested, But Black Men Get Killed?

Following the death of Keith Lamont Scott, officials claimed that he was armed with a handgun when Charlotte, North Carolina police fatally shot him.

As riots erupted throughout Charlotte, North Carolina following the shooting death of disabled black man, Keith Lamont Scott, details of the initial investigation began to unfold.

Preliminary Investigation:

Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney held a press conference Wednesday morning, during which he described the sequence of events leading up to Scott's death from his officers’ perspective.

According to Putney, Scott exited his vehicle holding a handgun and was given “loud, clear, verbal commands” to drop it before the officers shot and killed him.

Putney said that they uncovered the alleged weapon from Scott’s vehicle, which was in “close proximity” to his body — apparently using that detail as a means to further validate his officers’ account of what happened.

It was previously believed that the African-American father of seven was unarmed and holding a book when he was killed while waiting to pick his son up from school.

His family maintains that he had only a book, despite what the police have said.

Community Demands Answers:

The black community is outraged that, yet again, an innocent black man who was minding his own business has lost his life.

This is particularly infuriating as it immediately follows the police shooting of another black father, Terence Crutcher, who was unarmed and stranded on the side of the road in Oklahoma.

The officers involved in Scott’s death were initially looking for a suspect wanted for outstanding warrants, according to Putney.

They supposedly approached Scott after they observed him get out of his car holding a handgun, and then get back inside of it, Reuters reports. 

After the officers engaged Scott and commanded him to drop his weapon, they said the situation escalated when he refused. 

Protesters and activists have questioned this account of what happened and requested that the responding officers' body cam footage be released.

Conveniently, the cop who actually shot Scott, Brentley Vinson, was in plainclothes at the time and was not wearing a body camera.  

Video Footage Released:

Officials were able to uncover body cam and dash cam footage from other officers on the scene. The videos were eventually released to the public, several days after Scott's family viewed them.

After seeing the footage, Putney somewhat backtracked on his claims that Scott was armed by declaring that it could not "definitively" be determined if Scott was really holding a gun when he was killed.

In the clip, Scott can be seen calmly walking backwards with his hands at his side, appearing to cooperate with the officers' demands.

It is unclear what — if anything — he was holding in either of his hands. However, his demeanor and mannerisms appear to be non-threatening. 

The Double Standard:

Initially, when officers were claiming Scott was armed, it seemed they were using it as an excuse to justify the shooting. Regardless of whether or not he was truly armed, the officers’ defense simply doesn’t fly.

While #KeithLamontScott trended on Twitter, many who were angered by his death shared recent examples of armed and threatening white men who were arrested and brought safely into custody.

Black actor and activist Jesse Williams shared an article written in July when a Raleigh, North Carolina white man named William Bruce Ray was allegedly waving a shotgun at cars and fired a pistol at a sheriff’s deputy. After a scuffle, Ray was successfully disarmed and arrested. Not a single person was hurt or killed in that incident.

Similarly, back in August a 19-year-old named Austin Harrouff — who was allegedly under the influence of hallucinogenic chemicals — brutally stabbed two people to death and then proceeded to bite off pieces of flesh from one of his victims’ faces.

When one of the responding officers witnessed Harrouff’s cannibalistic actions, she actually got close enough to use her stun gun on him. Harrouff was clearly a dangerous threat, yet the officer wasn’t afraid to approach him with just a Taser.

After that didn’t work, officers still didn’t resort to shooting him. Four deputies physically tackled him and safely detained him.

Making matters worse, despite his disgustingly heinous crime, people actually had sympathy for Harrouff.

“This seems like a rational, normal guy with a lot of aspirations, a lot of dreams,” the victims’ neighbor Rob Cywes told local reporters. “Everybody’s a victim in this case, and that’s very, very sad.”

Black victims of police shootings aren’t given that kind of benefit of the doubt. Instead, there are people suggesting that if the black victims were armed, or being disobedient, or committing some petty crime, then they deserved to be killed.

The disparity couldn’t be more blatant and couldn’t be more of a slap in the face to people of color in this country.

It is evident that members of U.S. law enforcement have it engrained in their minds that when it comes to people of color, there is no other way to approach than with violence.

Needless to say, this is a prime example of law enforcement’s internalized racism which must change — no more excuses.

Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Reuters

View Comments

Recommended For You