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Could TBI Have Led to the Charlotte Police Shooting?

The city of Charlotte, North Carolina has faced a week of protests, some of which were violent, after a Charlotte police shooting involving Keith Lamont Scott. Family members wonder, could Scott’s response to the police have been caused by a TBI? 

Keith Scott was shot four times after police told him to “put the gun down.” His wife, Rakeyia Scott, says this is because a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may have left him unable to understand the police officers’ demands.

Keith Scott was the victim of a motorcycle accident in November 2015. The crash left him with two broken hips, a broken pelvis, a broken nose, and a traumatic brain injury. His mother, Vernita Scott told the LA Times:

“It caused him to stutter his words, and sometimes he couldn’t remember what he said.”

His injuries had caused him to stop riding. He often used a cane to get around. They also caused him to get confused in stressful situations. According to Rakeyia Scott, that is what happened the day her husband was shot.

Rakeyia Scott has released a cell-phone video of the Charlotte police shooting in which she yelled to the officers that Keith Scott didn’t have a gun, had a TBI, and had just taken his medication.

TBI often manifests most strongly when a person is under stress. According to Joanne Finegan, the chief executive of Pennsylvania-based ReMed, which treats brain injuries, people with a TBI can become “confused, fearful, and just trying to process what was going on.” This can include becoming overly emotional, and being less able to control one’s self. She told the Daily Mail:

“Sometimes with TBI patients people say that the person did exactly the opposite of what they asked them. . . . The problem is they didn’t understand what they asked for.”

According to Susan Connors, President of the Brain Injury Association, a serious TBI could have affected Scott’s ability to understand language.

“He could have problems following commands, he could have problems with judgement, with sequencing and planning. . . . For example he might have wanted to get out the car and may not have been able to figure out that he has to open the door first. In a stressful situation that may be impacted.”

There are many videos of the Charlotte police shooting, including dash-cam and body camera footage released by the police. They aren’t clear whether Keith Scott was armed or not. What is clear is that Keith Scott had a TBI, and that the police were informed of that injury. Rakeyia Scott believes that, if they had listened to that information and allowed her to de-escalate the situation, it could have saved Keith Scott’s life.

David Christensen is a brain injury attorney at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He helps the victims of motorcycle accidents get insurance benefits to cover their TBI treatments. If you have suffered a brain injury, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.