Officer faces murder charges
A video shows him shooting and killing an apparently unarmed black man who is running away.
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.”
POLICE OFFICERCharleston County Sheriff ’s Office
Michael Thomas Slager was arrested and fired.