Charlotte Nights

PhotographerBill Kotsatos
PrizeHonorable Mention
Entry Description

Coverage of the events following the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.


The pepper-spray clouds took their good ‘ol time to dissipate thanks to the humid summer night air of Charlotte. Like an unfriendly guest passing through town for the sole purpose to wreak havoc, the noxious spray chocked, blinded and retarded the movements those it covered but what it didn’t do was break their determination. Marked by frustration, anger, feelings of injustice and quite frankly — being sick of it all — the nights empowered those in the streets as much as they terrified. During the day they were lawyers and doctors, students and small business owners, parents and plumbers and much more but here they were protesters. Yet like in other mass protests some assumed the role of demonstrator, taking steps that defied law enforcement that they either escaped or not. Shortly before 4pm on September 20, 2016 in a University of North Carolina apartment complex parking lot in Charlotte, N.C., an African-American married father of seven, Keith Lamont Scott, was shot and killed by Brentley Vinson, an African-American officer with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department after failing to comply with orders to drop his gun. Vinson, along with other CMPD officers, were at the location searching for an unrelated suspect with an outstanding warrant when the encounter with Scott occurred. At the time police accounts differed greatly from that of the Scott family, in particular his wife, Rdkeyia, who recorded the moment on her mobile phone which police ultimately deemed inconclusive. Scott maintained that her husband was not in possession of a weapon, and that he was shot unjustly. Word that a shooting of an unarmed black man spread on social media and thousands descended upon Charlotte in protest. What began as a peaceful demonstration with signs and chants of ’No Justice No Peace’ and ‘Black Lives Matter' eventually turned violent as protesters threw rocks and bottles at police, which resulted in the deployment of tear gas, arrests and non-lifethreatenig injuries. On November 30, 2016, Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray announced that his office had decided not to charge Vinson and released a report of the investigation. Murray said that Vinson "acted lawfully" and that "All of the credible and available evidence suggests that he [Scott] was in fact armed.