S.C. cop charged with killing fleeing Black man
COMPILED FROM STAFF REPORTS
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – A South Carolina police officer was charged with murder in the shooting death of an unarmed Black man after police obtained a video that showed him unleash a volley of gunfire while the victim ran away, officials said.
North Charleston Police Officer Michael Thomas Slager was charged Tuesday in the death of 50-year-old Walter Lamer Scott. The charges were filed less than an hour after the city’s mayor and police chief received a cellphone video recorded by Feidin Santana, a native of the Dominican Republic who worked at a nearby barbershop.
Santana brought the video to Scott’s family, who turned it over to state law enforcement officials, North Charleston Mayor R. Keith Summey told reporters.
The video shows Scott fleeing as Slager fires at least eight shots in his direction.
“It’s not about race. It’s about power,” attorney L. Chris Stewart, who is representing the Scott family, said in a telephone interview with the Los Angeles Times. “That officer thought he could just shoot this man. He thought Mr. Scott was expendable.”
Stop turns tragic
The clash between Slager and Scott followed an April 4 traffic stop.
In the video, Scott, wearing a green T-shirt, appears to drop something near the officer’s feet and sprints in the opposite direction. The officer fires seven times, pauses, and then fires an eighth round as Scott slumps to the ground.
When the officer fires, Scott appears to be 15 to 20 feet away and he falls after the last of eight shots.
Some of the shots hit him in the back, the family’s lawyer said.
The officer then walks slowly toward Scott’s prone body and begins yelling, “Put your hands behind your back,” the video shows. Other officers are then seen arriving as Santana mutters the word “abuse” as well as profanities.
The officer then runs to where the original confrontation takes place and picks up something off the ground. Moments later, he drops an object near Scott’s body.
The video differs drastically from an account Slager gave two days after the shooting. Slager, a five-year veteran of the city police force, had originally told authorities that he feared for his life during the confrontation.
Slager, 33, previously served in the U.S. Coast Guard. Ironically, Scott served four years in the Coast Guard in the 1980s.
Mayor Summey announced the murder charge at a news conference Tuesday. Slager was also fired from his post as a North Charleston police officer.
Few Black cops
North Charleston is South Carolina’s third-largest city, with a population of about 100,000 and 343 police officers. African-Americans make up about half of the residents with Whites about a little over a third. The police department is about 80 percent White, according to the Justice Department in 2007.
The family plans to file a wrongful death suit against the city and police department, according to Stewart – who believes the video is the only reason Slager is facing criminal charges.
Scott was engaged to be married and worked for a trucking supply company, Stewart said. He was driving a used Mercedes he had recently purchased from a neighbor and was on his way to buy parts for the car when Slager encountered him.
Scott is survived by four sons, ages 16, 21, 22 and 24.
David Zucchino and Michael Muskal of the Los Angeles Times / TNS and Tina Susman contributed to this report.