A South Carolina police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man has been arrested and charged with murder.
The officer, Michael T. Slager, 33, claimed he feared for his life because the man, Walter L. Scott, 50, took his stun gun in an altercation during a traffic stop on Saturday.
From The New York Times:
The shooting unfolded after Officer Slager stopped the driver of a Mercedes-Benz with a broken taillight, according to police reports. Mr. Scott ran away, and Officer Slager chased him into a grassy lot that abuts a muffler shop. He fired his Taser, an electronic stun gun, but it did not stop Mr. Scott, according to police reports.
Moments after the struggle, Officer Slager reported on his radio, “Shots fired and the subject is down. He took my Taser,” according to police reports.
But video evidence provided by a bystander appears to tell a different story:
The video begins in the vacant lot, apparently moments after Officer Slager fired his Taser. Wires, which carry the electrical current from the stun gun, appear to be extending from Mr. Scott’s body as the two men tussle and Mr. Scott turns to run.
Something — it is not clear whether it is the stun gun — is either tossed or knocked to the ground behind the two men and Officer Slager draws his gun, the video shows. When the officer fires, Mr. Scott appears to be 15 to 20 feet away and fleeing. He falls after the last of eight shots.
The officer then runs back toward where the initial scuffle occurred and picks something off the ground. Moments later, he drops an object near Mr. Scott’s body, the video shows.
Warning: disturbing content
Police reports say that officers performed CPR and provided first aid to Scott, but the video does not corroborate that claim. It shows that for several minutes after the shooting, Scott remained face down with his hands cuffed behind his back. A second officer arrives, puts on blue medical gloves and attends to Scott, but is not shown performing CPR. A third officer later arrives, apparently with a medical kit, but also is not seen performing CPR.
At a news conference this evening, Mayor R. Keith Summey said the following:
“I can tell you that as a result of that video and the bad decision made by our officer he will be charged with murder and that’s not something that we like to hear.
The video is very demonstrative of exactly what happened. Without the video, and that was the only witness there was, it would be difficult to ascertain directly what did occur. We want to thank the young person who came forward with the video because it helped us to resolve exactly what did occur.”
It goes to say how we work as a community. If you’re wrong, you’re wrong and if you make a bad decision don’t matter if you’re behind the shield… you have to live by that decision.”
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the F.B.I., and the Justice Department are all investigating the shooting.
A murder conviction in the state could lead to the death penalty or up to 30 years to life in prison, according to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
The case is generating a lot of discussion on Twitter:
Our government is in outright denial on one end; weak lip service with some initiatives on the other. We need a real reckoning #walterscott
— Chad Wathington (@twchad) April 8, 2015
— Chris Parsons (@cultureofdefeat) April 8, 2015
— Stuckey (@stuckeywriter) April 8, 2015
One of the most chilling aspects of the #WalterScott murder was the way the officer screamed at a dying man to put his hands behind his back
— TT (@temisol) April 8, 2015
The worst part about the #WalterScott case is that it's likely only Slager that will go to jail. That other cop WATCHED the weapon plant.
— Adam Robert Thomas (@TheCromulentMan) April 8, 2015
if you run away from the public servant who is charged to protect & serve you, you will be executed. like #WalterScott
— Jon Hartmann (@jonhartmannjazz) April 8, 2015
Don't be surprised if the officer walks away a free man #WalterScott
— Deacon 'ifeChukwudi (@dollycent) April 8, 2015
how do you fear for your life when a man is running from you? I'm thoroughly confused. #WalterScott
— King Kei (@keiopensdoors) April 8, 2015
— Connor Wiegand (@yugogel) April 8, 2015
— Thom David (@ThomboyD) April 8, 2015
Meanwhile, also in South Carolina…
A white police officer who shot a 68-year-old black man to death last year following a chase faces a felony gun charge, in addition to his indictment of misconduct in office.
North Augusta officer Justin Craven was charged Tuesday with discharging a gun into an occupied vehicle in the February 2014 death of Ernest Satterwhite, the State Law Enforcement Division said in a release.
The 25-year-old officer faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $1,000 if convicted