New details released by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department last weekend indicated that suspected marijuana use was a key factor in police officers’ decision to approach Keith Lamont Scott in a confrontation that turned fatal.
Plainclothes officers were sitting in an unmarked car waiting to serve a warrant in an unrelated case when Scott’s car pulled in nearby, according to a police summary of the incident. The officers say they saw him holding what looked like a marijuana “blunt.”
“Officers did not consider Mr. Scott’s drug activity to be a priority at the time,” according to the incident summary, but police say they later saw a gun. “Due to the combination of illegal drugs and the gun Mr. Scott had in his possession, officers decided to take enforcement action for public safety concerns.”
When Scott didn’t comply with the officers’ commands, police say, they shot and killed him.
It’s not the first time low-level marijuana possession has escalated to a fatal police encounter. Last August, 19-year-old Zachary Hammond was fatally shot by police in Seneca, South Carolina, as he tried to flee from an attempted marijuana bust. In 2012, officers killed unarmed Bronx teenager Ramarley Graham as he tried to flush pot down the toilet. Trevon Cole was doing the same thing when police killed him in Las Vegas in 2010 during a drug raid at which no weapons were found.