Dramatic video that shows a white South Carolina police officer shooting a fleeing black man has led authorities to file a murder charge against the officer amid public outrage over a series of deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of U.S. law enforcement agents.
The video, provided to the dead man’s family and lawyer by an unidentified person, shows officer Michael Thomas Slager firing eight shots at the back of Walter Lamer Scott as Scott runs away. The 50-year-old man falls after the eighth shot, fired after a brief pause.
The officer, Michael Thomas Slager, has been fired, but the town will continue to pay for his health insurance because his wife is eight-month’s pregnant, said North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, who called it a tragedy for two families. The city’s mayor also said he has ordered body cameras to be worn by every single officer on the force.
Police Chief Eddie Diggers said he was “sickened” by what he saw on the video, but his explanations were repeatedly interrupted by shouts of “no justice, no peace!” and other hard questions that he said he couldn’t answer. The mayor then took back the podium and threatened to close the news conference.
Protests began within hours of the murder charge against Slager, which was announced Tuesday, the same day the video was released to the media. About 75 people gathered outside City Hall in North Charleston, led by a Black Lives Matter, a group formed after the fatal shooting of another black man in Ferguson, Missouri.
“Eight shots in the back!” local organizer Muhiydin D’Baha hollered through a bullhorn, and the crowd yelled “In the back!” in response.
Watch the New York Times’ analysis of the cellphone video:
Protests, some violent, erupted in many cities last year following the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the choke hold death of Eric Garner in New York City. The furor grew after grand juries declined to indict the white officers who killed them.
Slager, who has been with the North Charleston police for five years, could face 30 years to life in prison, if convicted.
Scott’s parents appeared separately on TV shows Wednesday morning.
Walter Scott Sr. told the NBC “Today Show” that his son may have run because he owed child support, which can lead to jail time in South Carolina.
Scott Sr. said that in the video, the officer “looked like he was trying to kill a deer running through the woods.”
Judy Scott called the video “the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen.”
“I almost couldn’t look at it to see my son running defenselessly, being shot. It just tore my heart to pieces,” she said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Attorneys for the family said the man who shot the video is assisting investigators. The person has not been identified.
South Carolina officer shoots unarmed black man to death
In the United States. Cellphone video leads to murder charges, against a white South Carolina police officer. CCTV’s Jim Spellman filed this report.
South Carolina officer shoots unarmed black man to deathIn the United States. Cellphone video leads to murder charges, against a white South Carolina police officer. CCTV's Jim Spellman filed this report.
L. Chris Stewart, an attorney for Scott’s family, said the video forced authorities to act quickly and decisively. “What if there was no video? What if there was no witness, or hero as I call him, to come forward?” asked Stewart.
Slager’s then-attorney David Aylor had released a statement Monday saying the officer felt threatened and that Scott was trying to grab Slager’s stun gun. Aylor dropped Slager as a client after the video surfaced.
The footage was also released to media outlets.
It shows Scott falling after the shots and then the officer slowly walking toward Scott and ordering the man to put his hands behind his back. When Scott doesn’t move, Slager pulls his arms back and cuffs his hands. Then he walks briskly back to where he fired the shots, picks up an object, and returns back to Scott before dropping the object by Scott’s feet, the video shows.
Slager was denied bond at a first appearance hearing Tuesday. He was not accompanied by a lawyer.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley issued a statement saying Slager’s actions were not acceptable and did not reflect the state’s values or “the way most of our law enforcement officials act.”
Scott had four children, was engaged and had no violent offenses on his record, Stewart said.
In a separate case in South Carolina, a white police officer who killed a 68-year-old black man last year in his driveway was charged Tuesday with a felony: discharging a gun into an occupied vehicle.
A prosecutor previously tried to indict officer Justin Craven on a manslaughter charge in the February 2014 death of Ernest Satterwhite, but a grand jury instead chose misconduct in office, a far lesser charge.
Compiled with information from The Associated Press
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