Of­fi­cer faces mur­der charges

A video shows him shoot­ing and killing an ap­par­ently un­armed black man who is run­ning away.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By James Queally and David Zucchino james.queally@la­times.com david.zucchino@la­times.com Queally re­ported from Los An­ge­les and Zucchino from Durham, N.C.

In South Carolina, a video shows him fir­ing at a man who was f lee­ing.

DURHAM, N.C. — A South Carolina po­lice of­fi­cer faces mur­der charges in the shoot­ing of an un­armed black man af­ter po­lice ob­tained a video that showed him open­ing fire as the man ran away, of­fi­cials said.

North Charleston Po­lice Of­fi­cer Michael Thomas Slager is ac­cused of killing Wal­ter Lamer Scott, 50, af­ter a traf­fic stop Satur­day. Charges were filed Tues­day, less than an hour af­ter the mayor and po­lice chief re­ceived a cell­phone video that ap­peared to show Scott flee­ing as Slager fired at least eight shots in his di­rec­tion. It was un­clear how many times he was hit.

A day ear­lier, the of­fi­cer said he was in fear of his life when he fired.

In the video, ap­par­ently taken by a passerby and made public by the Post and Courier news­pa­per in Charleston, S.C., Scott ap­pears to drop some­thing near the white of­fi­cer’s feet, then runs in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. Seven shots can be heard, then a pause, and an eighth round as Scott slumps to the ground.

The of­fi­cer walks to­ward Scott’s prone body and yells, “Put your hands be­hind your back,” the video shows.

Scott had been wanted on a Fam­ily Court war­rant, the Post and Courier re­ported.

The video dif­fers dras­ti­cally from an ac­count Slager gave Mon­day. In a state­ment re­leased through at­tor­ney David Ay­lor, Slager said Scott be­gan to wres­tle for con­trol of the of­fi­cer’s stun gun af­ter a traf­fic stop.

Slager said he “felt threat­ened and reached for his depart­ment-is­sued firearm and fired his weapon.”

Po­lice re­ports filed af­ter the shoot­ing sug­gest Slager was chas­ing Scott on foot. Af­ter open­ing fire, Slager spoke into his po­lice ra­dio: “Shots fired and the sub­ject is down. He took my Taser.”

Ay­lor said in a brief tele­phone in­ter­view Tues­day that he had re­moved him­self as Slager’s at­tor­ney. He de­clined to say why.

Scott fam­ily at­tor­ney L. Chris Ste­wart said the video is the only rea­son Slager is fac­ing crim­i­nal charges.

“It would have just been the stan­dard story of a po­lice of­fi­cer giv­ing his ver­sion and that would be the end of it,” he said in a tele­phone in­ter­view. “In this case, this of­fi­cer gave his story, and it turned out not to be true.”

North Charleston Po­lice Chief Ed Drig­gers ap­peared vis­i­bly up­set as he dis­cussed the shoot­ing with re­porters. “It’s been a tragic day for many,” he said.

Slager was fired Tues­day, a city spokesman said.

Mem­bers of Scott’s fam­ily broke down af­ter watch­ing the video at their Charleston home, Ste­wart said.

“I don’t want to see any­one shot down like my brother was shot down,” Wal­ter Scott said at an evening news con­fer­ence. “I’ve seen the video. If there wasn’t a video, would we know the truth? We do know the truth now.”

Slager was taken into cus­tody by the South Carolina Law En­force­ment Di­vi­sion, which is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the shoot­ing. Thom Berry, an agency spokesman, said he did not know whether the dash­board cam­era in Slager’s pa­trol car cap­tured the in­ci­dent.

North Charleston po­lice of­fi­cers do not wear body cam­eras, a po­lice spokesman said.

The FBI in South Carolina also is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the shoot­ing, a Jus­tice Depart­ment spokes­woman said.

Slager was booked into the Charleston County Jail on a mur­der charge, ac­cord­ing to on­line jail records. He was de­nied bond dur­ing a brief court ap­pear­ance, but Berry said that was be­cause of a pro­ce­dural rule. Slager will prob­a­bly ap­pear in court Fri­day.

North Charleston, with about 100,000 peo­ple, is the third largest city in South Carolina.

The Rev. Thomas Dixon urged res­i­dents to re­main peace­ful if they take part in demon­stra­tions.

“We’re call­ing on the com­mu­nity to, in light of this rev­e­la­tion, to re­main calm, honor the wishes of this fam­ily,” Dixon said at a news con­fer­ence. “The fam­ily has asked specif­i­cally that the death of this young man not be dis­hon­ored.”

Scott, a Coast Guard vet­eran, is sur­vived by four sons, ages 16, 21, 22 and 24, and was en­gaged, the fam­ily at­tor­ney said.

“It’s not about race. It’s about power,” Ste­wart said. “That of­fi­cer thought he could just shoot this man. He thought Mr. Scott was ex­pend­able.”


Charleston County Sher­iff ’s Of­fice

Michael Thomas Slager was ar­rested and fired.

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