Many people have now seen the video footage of the Charlotte police officer shooting and killing Keith Lamont Scott on September 20. The video, recorded by Scott’s wife, was shared widely on social media and sparked days of protests against police brutality.
What the police officers did not know at the time was that Scott suffered a traumatic brain injury in a motorcycle accident last year. His injury and medications made him confused, impulsive, and slow to respond.
Motor-vehicle crashes are the second most common cause of traumatic brain injury, accounting for 20% of all TBIs.
According to police, during Scott’s final moments, he ignored commands to drop his weapon. However, the victim’s wife can be heard in the video, shouting to the officers that her husband “doesn’t have a gun, he has a TBI.”
Video footage does not conclusively show whether or not Scott was pointing a gun at the police, though the weapon was recovered from the victim’s car.
Neurologists have confirmed that a person with a severe traumatic brain injury would have a hard time following instructions and would be slow to respond, especially when confronted with hostility.
“They don’t do well in stressful situations,” said Dr. David Brody, a professor of neurology at Washington University in St. Louis. “They often make poor choices or impulsive decisions under stress.”
Scott had to completely relearn how to walk and talk after his motorcycle accident. Jeffrey S. Kutcher, national director of The Sports Neurology Clinic at The CORE Institute, explained that a brain injury of this severity “can lead to devastating changes in behavior, impulse control and really, any cognitive function.”
Scott’s family eventually stopped responding to the media’s inquiries about the victim’s past and his condition. His brother-in-law, Ray Dotch, refused to comment on Scott’s criminal background, saying that they shouldn’t have to “humanize him in order for him to be treated fairly.”
“What we know and what you should know about him is that he was an American citizen who deserved better,” said Dotch.