SC police officer charged in fatal shooting – USA TODAY
A white North Charleston, S.C., police officer was charged with shooting and killing an apparently unarmed black man during a traffic stop after a video of the confrontation surfaced, authorities said Tuesday.
North Charleston Officer Michael Slager, 33, is facing a murder charge in connection with the shooting death of Walter Scott, 50, Mayor Keith Summey said.
A video that shows a North Charleston police officer shooting at Scott’s back at least eight times as he ran away led to the arrest Tuesday, Police Chief Eddie Driggers said.
“Where would we be without that video?” said Justin Bamberg, an attorney for Scott’s family, expressing relief that charges were filed four days after Scott was shot to death Saturday morning.
The mayor said during a news conference that as a result of the video and Slager’s “bad decision,” the officer would be charged with murder. Slager was booked into the county’s detention center and was being held without bail.
“When you’re wrong, you’re wrong,” Summey said. “When you make a bad decision, don’t care if you’re behind the shield or a citizen on the street, you have to live with that decision.”
The video, filmed by a bystander, shows the end of a confrontation Saturday morning after Scott, who had a warrant out for his arrest, ran from a traffic stop.
Appearing before cameras Tuesday night, Anthony Scott, brother of the dead man, said the family was pleased that the truth was coming out as a result of the video’s release.
“I think through the process we have received the truth. We can’t get my brother back, and my family is in deep mourning…. But through the process, justice has been served,” Anthony Scott said. “I don’t think that all police officers are bad cops, but there are some bad ones out there. I don’t want to see anyone get shot down the way my brother got shot down.”
Walter Scott spent two years in the Coast Guard, had four children and was outgoing and loving, Anthony Scott said. “He was the most outgoing out of all of us,” the brother said. “He was well known in the community.”
Chris Stewart, an Atlanta lawyer also representing the Scott family, said the mayor’s announcement that the officer would be charged “brought a short sense of relief and joy” to the family.
“Everyone in the home just started crying and hugging,” Stewart said. “For the first time in a long time an officer was going to be charged.”
“What happened today doesn’t happen all the time,” Stewart said, referring to charges filed against the officer. “What if there was no video? What if there was no witness, or hero as I call him, to come forward? This wouldn’t have happened.”
Attorney David Aylor, who released a statement on Slager’s behalf earlier this week, said Tuesday that he wasn’t representing the officer anymore. Slager has said through Aylor that Scott had wrested his Taser from him during a struggle. The officer felt threatened when he fired, his attorney said.
The developments come following months of national discussion about race and policing following instances of law enforcement confrontations with unarmed citizens in Ferguson, Mo., New York City and elsewhere. In this case, the victim was black and the officer white, the newspaper said.
Johnetta Elzie, 25, a frequent protester in Ferguson who has become a field organizer for Amnesty International, described the video of Scott’s shooting as disgusting yet necessary evidence.
“I’m glad the world got to see what injustice looks like for black people in this country,” Elzie, who is black, said. “This is the type of stuff that we as a people have been saying–that they (police) plant guns, that they lie about the interactions, that they always say that they fear for their lives.”
The shooting shows that the officer was not in fear for his life and that he instead was calm as he fired multiple shots at Scott, she said. The video also shows that the officer didn’t see Scott’s humanity because after shooting him, the officer handcuffed Scott’s motionless body, she said.
“It’s like even in our death, they still see us as some type of super human action hero,” she said. “It just made me sick to my stomach.”
Still, Elzie said the video doesn’t guarantee that the officer will be brought to justice. She called the murder charge against the officer a “small step” and said the justice system too often allows officers who unjustly kill blacks to walk free.
Ashley Yates, 30, an activist from Oakland and one of the most visible protesters in Ferguson, said Tuesday the video reminded her of many unarmed black people who have been killed by police. “Unfortunately, it’s another video in a list of long videos in which we’ve seen that the way the police interact with black citizens is different from the way they interact with other citizens,” she said.
Contributing: Yamiche Alcindor, Donna Leinwand Leger, USA Today