A white police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina was charged with murder on Tuesday, hours after a cell-phone video was released to authorities showing that he shot an escaping unarmed black man in the back during a usual traffic stop Saturday, which also contradicts the report S.C officer gave of the Saturday shooting.
The video’s release also gave the family of the victim –50-year-old Walter Scott— some semblance of comfort. At a news conference Tuesday night, saying, “All we wanted was the truth.”
Officer Michael Slager, 33, will be facing 30 years to life in prison or the death penalty if he is convicted, state officials said in a news release. According to NBC News, Slager was being held without bond in the Charleston County Jail.
The Mayor of North Charleston, Keith Summey, also spoke of the tragic incident at a news conference on Tuesday. He indicated that the decision to charge the officer came immediately after the viewing of the footage.
When you’re wrong, you’re wrong, and if you make a bad decision, don’t care if you’re behind the shield or just a citizen on the street, you have to live by that decision.
Slager has been with the department since 2009, according to officials.
The incident occurred about 9:30 a.m. Saturday ET, after Slager allegedly pulled over Scott’s car because of a broken taillight. Slager claimed that Scott took his Taser, and for that reason, he immediately opened fire since he feared for his life during the confrontation between him and Scott.
“Shots fired. Subject is down. He grabbed my Taser,” Slager says in a call to dispatchers.
“Put your hands behind your back!” the officer shouted as he proceeded to cuff Scott’s hands. He then walked back to his initial position where he appeared to pick something off the ground.
According to an incident report, other police officers and later EMS tried to administer CPR but Scott died at the scene.
A Black officer then arrived as Slager returned to Scott and tossed an object, seemingly the stun gun, next to the body.
Daily News reported, five of the eight shots hit Scott, according to his family’s attorney — four in the back and one in the ear.
“Every time I close my eyes, all I see is my brother taking those bullets,” Scott’s younger brother, Rodney, told the Post and Courier. “I can’t sleep.”
The Justice Department and the South Carolina Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is also reviewing the incident.
According to the Daily News, Anthony Scott said that the family was disturbed by the initial reports in which Slager claimed his brother [Walter Scott] grabbed the stun gun.
“I think through the process, we have received the truth. We can’t get my brother back, and my family is in deep mourning for that,” Anthony Scott said. “But through the process, justice has been served. I don’t think all police officers are bad cops, but there are some bad ones out there.”
Slager was also a Coast Guard veteran, and had been on the North Charleston force for five years, Daily News reported. Two people had filed complaints against him during that time period— including one man who said Slager shot him with a Taser in 2013 for no apparent reason, the Post and Courier reported. Slager was never charged for that specific complaint.
Lawyers for Scott’s family said they are looking into filing a civil lawsuit against police, told NBC. Attorney L. Chris Stewart said the video would be an important piece of evidence.
“For the first time in a long time, an officer is going to be charged,” Stewart told reporters. “What happened today doesn’t happen all the time,” he added. “What if there wasn’t no video, what if there was no witness … then this (murder charge against the officer) wouldn’t have happened.”
The witness has yet to be identified.
Below are images of North Charleston police officer Michael Slager and the deceased Walter Scott:
– Sherley Boursiquot — @sherleybee_