A white police officer from North Charleston, South Carolina has been charged with the murder of an unarmed African American man after a video surfaced showing him shooting him in the back as he ran away.  Michael Slager, 33, claimed he feared for his life because the man stole his stun gun during a scuffle following a traffic stop.  The video clearly shows Slager shoot Walter Scott, 50, eight times as he is running away.

The shooting comes on the heels of other high-profile shootings of unarmed men in New York, Cleveland, Ferguson, and elsewhere.  The deaths have set off a national debate about the lethal use of force by police, particularly in cases involving African American men.

“When you’re wrong, you’re wrong,” Mayor Keith Summey said during a news conference, “And if you make a bad decision, [I] don’t care if you’re behind the shield or just a citizen on the street, you have to live by that decision.”

The shooting unfolded after Officer Slager stopped Scott, who was driving a Mercedes-Benz with a broken taillight.  Police reports say that Scott ran from the scene and Officer Slager followed him into a grassy lot behind a muffler shop.  He fired his Taser at Scott, but it did not stop him.  Moments later, a struggle ensued where the police reports claim that Officer Slager shoots Scott after he gets his Taser and he fears for his life.  Slager reports on his radio:  “Shots fired and the subject is down.  He took my Taser.”  The police officers reported they attempted to save Scott’s life.

If it wasn’t for a video taken by a bystander, that would be the end of the story, but not the truth.

The video begins in the vacant lot moments after Officer Slager fired his Taser at Scott.  Wires, which carry the electrical current, can be seen in Scott’s body as the two men tussle.  Scott frees himself from the struggle, turns, and runs.

That is when the video shows, Officer Slager shoot Scott.  Scott is about 15 – 20 feet away and facing in the other direction.  Scott is shot 8 times and falls to the ground.  The officer runs back to where the scuffle occurred, picks something up (believed to be the Taser) and plants it near Scott’s body.  Afterwards, Slager handcuffs Scott as he lays dying.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the state’s criminal investigative body, has begun an inquiry into the shooting. The F.B.I. and the Justice Department, which has opened a string of civil rights investigations into police departments is also investigating.  The Supreme Court has held that an officer can use deadly force against a suspect running away if there is probable cause that suspect “poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.”

Scott has a minor criminal record, failing to pay child support, not showing up to hearings, etc.  His most serious offense was in 1987 when he was convicted of assault and battery.

“He has four children; he doesn’t have some type of big violent past or arrest record,” said Chris Stewart, a lawyer for Mr. Scott’s family. “He had a job; he was engaged. He had back child support and didn’t want to go to jail for [it].”

Police reports say that officers attempted CPR and first aid, but the video shows officers not administering aid at all.  Scott is face down with handcuffs on for several minutes before another officer puts on blue medical gloves touches Scott.  A third officer arrives later with a medical kit, but does not perform CPR.

Scott’s brother said, “How do you lose your life at a traffic stop?”

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Comments
  1. aMERICA IS IN SERIOUS TROUBLE. lAWS MADE YEARS AGO ARE NOW OUTDATED. OUR POLICE FORCE HAS GONE BAD AND SOME ARE FINALLY WAKING UP. PLEASE TRAIN POLICE IN HOW TO HANDLE CASES. SHOOTING TO EMPTY YOUR GUN INTO A BLACK CHILD/MAN ISN’T THE WAY TO GO.

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