Of­fi­cer in Scott shoot­ing given 20-year sen­tence

The Buffalo News - - FRONT PAGE - By Alan Blinder NEW YORK TIMES

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.

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