Officer in Scott shooting given 20-year sentence
CHARLESTON, S.C. – Michael T. Slager, the white police officer whose video-recorded killing of an unarmed black motorist in North Charleston, S.C., starkly illustrated the turmoil over racial bias in U.S. policing, was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison, after the judge in the case said he viewed the shooting as a murder.
The sentence, which was within the range of federal guidelines, was pronounced in U.S. District Court in Charleston about seven months after Slager pleaded guilty to violating the civil rights of Walter L. Scott when he shot and killed him in April 2015. The case against Slager is one of the few instances in which a police officer has been prosecuted for an on-duty shooting.
“We have to get this type of justice, because being a police officer is one of the most powerful jobs in the country, and it should be respected,” L. Chris Stewart, a lawyer for Scott’s family, said after the hearing, which was punctuated by tears and grief. “But that doesn’t mean you’re above the law. That doesn’t mean you can do as you please.”
In court Thursday, Slager expressed remorse.
“Walter Scott is no longer with his family, and I’m responsible for that,” he said. “I wish it never would have happened. I wish I could go back in time.” After the hearing, his lawyers declined to comment.
A video, shot by an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who was passing by the vacant lot where the shooting took place, showed Slager taking aim and firing eight shots at Scott, 50, as he fled
Slager was swiftly fired and arrested.
Although the judge’s sentence fell short of what prosecutors had sought, the fact that Slager was convicted of any crime at all made the case a milestone in the national debate about police conduct. Other killings by police officers, from Baltimore to Charlotte, N.C., and Ferguson, Mo., have prompted protests and some changes in police practice, but have not led to convictions.