A graphic video obtained by the NY Times shows a police officer fatally shooting an unarmed man eight times in the back and then trying to fabricate a justification for the killing.
South Carolina police officer Michael Slager, 33, pulled over Walter Scott in North Charleston on Saturday afternoon because of a broken tail light. Scott ran, and Officer Slager chased him on foot, firing a taser at Scott and then gunning him down. Needless to say the video, taken by a bystander, is highly disturbing:
Immediately after killing the 50-year-old Scott, Officer Slager says over his radio, "Shots fired and the subject is down. He took my Taser." The video, which was recorded by a bystander, contradicts this claim, and shows Slager handcuffing Scott and then running back to where he dropped the stun gun. Officer Slager then carries it back over to Scott and drops it near his body.
The Times reports that it's unclear if Scott died immediately, but the video shows that none of the officers who arrived at the scene minutes after the shooting bothered to perform CPR.
Slager was charged with murder yesterday after the video surfaced. The FBI and Justice Department have opened investigations into Scott's death.
"When you’re wrong, you’re wrong,” Mayor Keith Summey said during a press conference last night. “And if you make a bad decision, don’t care if you’re behind the shield or just a citizen on the street, you have to live by that decision."
An attorney representing Scott's family says he believed Scott ran because he owed back child support and feared arrest. (The local Post & Courier reports that he had been arrested ten times over the years, "mostly for failure to appear for court hearings and to pay child support.")
"He has four children; he doesn’t have some type of big violent past or arrest record," attorney Chris Stewart tells the Times. “He had a job; he was engaged. He had back child support and didn’t want to go to jail for back child support."
Before the video surfaced, there was nothing to contradict Officer Slager's insistence that Scott had grabbed his stun gun and threatened him with it. From the Post and Courier:
“When confronted, Officer Slager reached for his Taser — as trained by the department — and then a struggle ensued,” [Slager's lawyer David] Aylor said. “The driver tried to overpower Officer Slager in an effort to take his Taser.”
Seconds later, the report added, he radioed that the suspect wrested control of the device. Even with the Taser’s prongs deployed, the device can still be used as a stun gun to temporarily incapacitate someone.
Slager “felt threatened and reached for his department-issued firearm and fired his weapon,” his attorney added.