After a video was released that allegedly depicted the incident in full, a white South Carolina police officer was charged with murder for the shooting death of an unarmed black man who was allegedly running away after a traffic stop. During a news conference Tuesday night, Keith Summey, the mayor of North Charleston, where the shooting took place, said that Officer Michael T. Slager would be charged for allegedly shooting 50-year-old Walter L. Scott eight times in the back while he was attempting to flee.
According to The New York Times, Slager, 33, claims that, after stopping a Mercedes Benz for a broken taillight, the driver, Scott, ran away despite Slager's attempt to stop him using a Taser stun gun. Slager then reported on the police radio channel that shots were fired and the suspect had stolen his Taser after a struggle, according to police reports. But a bystander video given to the Times by Scott's lawyer allegedly shows Scott being struck by the Taser's electrical currents and then turning to run. Something is either knocked or dropped on the ground — it's unclear if it's the Taser and how exactly it happened — and then Slager allegedly pulled his gun and fired off eight rounds, with Scott falling after the last one.
Scott's death has reignited debates of whether police officers are too quick to use deadly force, especially in situations with black men and women, Charleston newspaper The Post and Courier reports. After unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner died after police put him in an allegedly illegal chokehold in New York, protests erupted around the nation demanding justice with the Black Lives Matter movement.
The South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is investigating the shooting, as is the Justice Department. It's the state's 11th shooting this year regarding a law enforcement officer, according to The Post and Courier. Before the identities of Scott and Slager were released, James Johnson, president of the local chapter of Al Sharpton's National Action Network, had urged the community to wait to protest until the investigation was complete, stating, "I don’t want this to become another Ferguson."
The video allegedly shows that Scott was somewhere between 10 and 20 feet away from Slager when Slager shot him. According to Mayor Summey, Slager was arrested on the murder charges because of his "bad decision." He said in the news conference:
When you’re wrong, you’re wrong. When you make a bad decision, don’t care if you’re behind the shield or a citizen on the street, you have to live with that decision.