Justice

Police Officer is Charged with Murdering Walter Scott

June 8th 2015

By:
Sarah Gray

On Monday, a grand jury in Charleston County, S.C. indicted former police officer Michael T. Slager on murder charges for the killing of Walter Scott, an unarmed Black man. Slager faces 30 years to life in prison; he will reportedly not face the death penalty.

On April 4, a passerby captured graphic and horrifying video of Slager, who is white, firing eight times at Scott’s back, ultimately killing him. The video was eventually released by the New York Times, and Slager was fired from the North Charleston police department following the surfacing of the video. 

According to reports, the shooting occurred after police officer Michael T. Slager stopped 50-year-old Walter L. Scott for a broken taillight. The New York Times states that Scott fled and was chased by Officer Slager to a nearby lot. Scott was reportedly tased, but continued to flee from the officer. Eight shots were fired by Officer Slager at Scott's back as he ran.

The Scott family and their attorney L. Chris Stewart held a press conference Tuesday night, and stated they were thankful the person who took the video came forward and that the officer was charged. "It doesn't happen all the time," Stewart stated.

"I'm reassured that after seeing the video -- that speaks for itself -- that any person in this country no matter what race you are [can see] that's murder," Stewart stated. 

The family plans to file a civil lawsuit, and South Carolina State Representative Justin T. Bamberg called for body cameras:

"What if there was no video?" the family's attorney asked. "What if there was no witness--or hero as I call him--to come forward?"

The officer claims that Scott had tried to take his stun gun, and he feared for his life. "Shots fired and the subject is down," the officer said, according to reports. "He took my Taser."

The video is slightly at odds with this description. It begins with the two men in the grassy lot. The scene unfolds with what appears to be Scott being tasered by Officer Slager. An unidentified object falls to the ground and then Officer Slager draws his weapon. He shoots eight times, and on the last shot, Scott falls. The video also shows Officer Slager bring what appears, but is not confirmed, to be the Taser over to Scott's body.

This shooting happened at a time when officer-related killings of Black men by white officers -- in Ferguson, Mo., New York, Los Angeles, and Cleveland -- have sparked protest and opened a discussion about racism and police brutality. President Barack Obama asked Attorney General Eric Holder to delve into police and community relations across the country. The initial report was released last month.

North Charleston has a population of 100,000 and is the third-largest city in South Carolina. The city's population is 47 percent Black and 37 percent white; the police force is 80 percent white.

The state of South Carolina is investigating the incident. The Justice Department will also be looking into the shooting. Warning: the below video is graphic: