By C.N. Staff Writer
Over the past six months, the shootings and killings of innocent black boys and men have reached alarming numbers. In early April a South Carolinian man was shot to death in his back by a white police officer after a routine traffic stop in North Charleston. He was pulled over for a suspected taillight that was out, which has yet to be determined.
Officer Michael Slager 33, said he had feared for his life because Walter Scott, 50, fled his vehicle after he pulled him over for a broken tail light. Slager claims during the fleeing, he and Scott had a scuffle where Scott seized his stun gun. After he seized his stun gun and continued to run, Slager shot him eight times in his back, killing him. A bystander, who recorded the incident from the time the two men were already in an open vacant area, revealed evidence of the killing on a cell phone.
Scott’s shooting death comes on the heels of high-profile instances of police officers’ using lethal force in New York, Cleveland, Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere. The deaths have set off a national debate over whether the police are too quick to use force, particularly in cases involving black men. A national #BlackLivesMatter and #ICan’tBreathe movement has started across the country with protests rising in major cities and those where the incidents took place.
Slager initially claimed he fired in self-defense after the suspect he had pulled over for a broken brake light grabbed his Taser. The shooting unfolded after Officer Slager stopped the driver of a Mercedes-Benz with a broken taillight, according to police reports. Mr. Scott ran away, and Officer Slager chased him into a grassy lot that abuts a muffler shop. He fired his Taser, an electronic stun gun, but it did not stop Mr. Scott, according to police reports. Moments after the struggle, Officer Slager reported on his radio: “Shots fired and the subject is down. He took my Taser,” according to police reports. The officer then runs back toward where the initial scuffle occurred and picks something up off the ground.
However, the eyewitness who filmed the video on his cell phone, Feidin Santana, told CNN, he began filming when he heard Slager yell ‘teaser.’ He said, “Mr. Scott was trying just to get away from the Taser.” Moments after the shooting later, Slager drops an object near Mr. Scott’s body, the video shows.
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 under Mr. Holder, is also investigating.
After the video was made public by a lawyer representing the Scott family days after the shooting Slager, was fired and charged with murder, potentially resulting in a sentence of 30 years to life in prison. A South Carolina judge ordered the ex-officer jailed without bond, pending trial.
Officer Slager served in the Coast Guard before joining the force five years ago, his lawyer said.
Mr. Scott had been arrested about 10 times, mostly for failing to pay child support or show up for court hearings, according to Courier newspaper of Charleston. Slager has not offered any comment, on his own or through an attorney, since he was arrested. The attorney who had represented him in the aftermath of the shooting told The Post minutes before the video was made public that he was no longer representing him.
The recent surge in video evidence of shootings of unarmed black men has sparked national outrage. In January, prosecutors in Albuquerque charged two police officers with murder for shooting a homeless man in a confrontation that was captured by an officer’s body camera. Federal prosecutors are investigating the death of Eric Garner, who died last year in Staten Island after a police officer put him in a chokehold, an episode that a bystander captured on video. A video taken in Cleveland shows the police shooting a 12-year-old boy, Tamir Rice, who was carrying a fake gun in a park. A White House policing panel recommended that police departments put more video cameras on their officers.
By C.N. Staff Writer