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Scott County Officials Deem Police Shooting Of Black Man Legally 'Justified'

Many residents of Ferguson, Mo., would like to see the police wear video cameras, like this one worn by a Los Angeles police officer.
Damian Dovarganes
Scott County officials announced Thursday that the deadly shooting of a Black man by police in Bettendorf in February was legally justified.

The Scott County Attorney’s Office has decided that the fatal shooting of a Black man by a police officer in Bettendorf in February was legally justified. Officials released body cam footage and a 911 call of the incident Thursday. It’s among the latest shootings of a Black man by officers in Iowa and the announcement comes during a time of nationwide reckonings on police brutality and systemic racism.

First Assistant Scott County Attorney Amy DeVine made the announcement Thursday that the deadly shooting of 49 year old Brian Gregory Scott by Officer Zachary Gish early in the morning on February 7 was “justified."

“The evidence in this case shows that the use of force used by Officer Gish was reasonable and justified,” DeVine told reporters.

DeVine played segments of a 911 call and police body cam footage of the incident for reporters. The footage is also available online, though many may find it disturbing; it includes the moment that Scott is shot.

The footage shows officers responding to a domestic dispute between Scott and his ex-girlfriend, whom officials did not identify by name in order to protect her privacy.

Police had been alerted to the incident through a 911 call from the ex-girlfriend’s daughter, who was very distraught, telling a dispatcher, “he already tried to kill my mom before."

A subsequent 911 call led officers to where Scott and his ex-girlfriend were sitting in a parked car. Officers got the woman to leave the vehicle and in an interview at the scene she is clearly distressed, telling officers that Scott threatened to kill her, her children, her mother and himself.

Upon learning from the woman that Scott had a gun in the car, officers began ordering him to get out of the vehicle, orders which DeVine says he did not comply with.

It was Scott who shot his gun first, she said, before Gish shot him four times, killing him. In response to a reporter’s question about whether officers could have responded with less lethal force, such as by using a taser, DeVine said it was not an option.

“Brian Scott fired his weapon first. And then it was Officer Gish who had to fire his duty weapon. Once somebody has fired his weapon at officers, he has left him no choice but to fire,” DeVine said. “A taser isn’t going to do anything to somebody who’s firing a gun at officers.”

Bettendorf Police Chief Keith Kimball defended the officers’ response, saying they took steps to not escalate the situation.

“I believe that they acted in the best capacity they could have, based on their training and circumstances,” Kimball said. “What you have to realize at the beginning…Mr. Scott was not compliant, really from the beginning.”

Gish is back on the job at the Bettendorf Police Department after being on administrative leave while the investigation was conducted.

The killing of Scott is among the latest shootings of Black men by police in Iowa. Recently the city of Cedar Rapids paid more than $600,000 dollars to defend an officer in a use of force case there. A review by the Associated Press found that the state’s attorney general has not convicted a police officer in a use of force case in at least 16 years.

Police killings, including the death of George Floyd, have sparked sustained protests and political organizing in communities in Iowa, across the country and around the world, as activists demand significant reforms and call attention to systemic racism and police brutality.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter