CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

Keith Lamont Scott: A troubled man whose death ignited a city

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 September, 2016, 1:30am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 September, 2016, 10:55am

Keith Lamont Scott had been arrested five times and spent more than six years of his life in prison. He was married to the same woman for more than 20 years and was a father to seven. He was a regarded as a good security guard at a local mall, but died at the hands of local law enforcement near his home.

He was real jovial. He could have his intimidating looks on some days. But he was usually laid-back
Crissy Ferguson, a friend

The complicated tapestry of his life came to an end Tuesday when police in Charlotte shot Scott outside a condominium complex amid a murky set of circumstances that sparked riots, fueled the debate over police tactics and became the latest Rorschach test for the nation’s view on race.

At the centre of it all was Scott, a relatively unknown man in life and a nationally trending topic in death. He was 43.

Scott was born in South Carolina, and his mother, Vernita Scott Walker, still lives in the Charleston area. She said her son was “a family man” and told local television station WCSC that he’d suffered in recent months after being involved in a motorcycle accident in November.

“He had some issues with his brain, and he had two broken hips and broken pelvis … and his nose was broken,” she said. “It caused him to stutter his words, and sometimes he couldn’t remember what he said.”

Before that, neighbours said, he was a proud father who would watch his son play football at the local middle school in Gastonia. He would, if the weather was nice, detail his truck with an older son. On Facebook, his daughters and a niece posted a video of him playfully dancing at a family function to the Chris Brown/Usher slow jam, New Flame.

“RIP killer Keith u will be forever loved and missed frfr love you uncle,” Tylicia Shameer Gladden wrote above the video, which had more than 20,000 views and had been shared more than 264 times. A cousin, identified as Kellie Doll, started a GoFundMe campaign that, as of Saturday afternoon, had raised US$4,685. Funeral plans have not been disclosed.

His family has largely avoided giving lengthy interviews about Scott since the controversial shooting.

But on social media, they’ve been active – highly critical of law enforcement’s version of events.

Police have said Scott was armed at the time and in possession of marijuana; family members contend that he had only a book, which they say he was reading while waiting at a bus stop for his son to return from school.

In a video Scott’s wife, Rakeyia, recorded of the moments before his death, she told police he wasn’t armed, wouldn’t do anything and had just taken medicine for his TMI – traumatic brain injury.

Crissy Ferguson, who knew him for about two years when the Scott family lived down the street in Gastonia, said he was a friendly presence who had an unmistakable baritone voice – “a radio voice” – and was generally approachable and friendly. “He was real jovial,” Ferguson said. “He could have his intimidating looks on some days. But he was usually laid-back.”

Ferguson said Scott’s motorcycle was a source of pride for him. But since the accident, she said, he had to walk with a cane.

Scott had worked at the Eastridge Mall as a security guard for about a year.

“He did a good job for us,” said general manager Lance Sturges. “Our security folks are customer-service-oriented and ambassadors, and they have to have the gravitas to work with big and small situations and enforce the rules and regulations. He did that,” Sturges said.

It’s unclear how Scott ended up in the Charlotte area after travelling a path that had him living in South Carolina and Texas for several years.

But the years in Texas seemed to carry with them, for Scott, a penchant for brushing up against the law. His time there included his longest prison sentence – a stretch from March 2005 to April 2011 for aggravated assault, according to Jason Clark, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Clark said he also served time for evading arrest.

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His lawyer in those cases, Gloria Yates Early, said Scott argued that he had been acting in self-defence when he shot a man near a convenience store in San Antonio. She said Scott thought the man – who Scott said had been following him and his family for a week – was armed. Scott went to talk to him and ended up drawing his handgun and firing it 10 times, striking the man.

Early said Scott believed the man was going to harm him or his family. “I don’t know what went wrong and why he did it, but shots were fired and no weapon was retrieved from the other guy.… But the man lived.”

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Early said Scott was working at a job at the time the case was proceeding, but eventually lost it because of his absences for court appearances. Then he missed a court appearance and had his bail revoked, landing him back in jail. He was sentenced to a little more than a year for that conviction.

Scott’s legal troubles in South Carolina weren’t as severe and took place in the 1990s – around the time he married Rakeyia, on March 25, 1996, in Charleston. He was 22 and she was 18. The convictions ranged from check fraud for amounts under US$50 to carrying a concealed weapon, though not a firearm.