North Charleston police officer Michael Slager's shooting of Walter Scott is the latest in a devastating string of incidents featuring white cops shooting unarmed black men. Last year, the death of Michael Brown and the ensuing non-indictment of Darren Wilson sparked outrage and large-scale protests across the country. One detail that became symbolic of the Black Lives Matter movement is the fact that Brown was described by some eyewitnesses (albeit not all) as having his hands up when shot by Wilson. Did Walter Scott have his hands up when Slager shot him?
From the bystander video, which captured the shooting and exposed contradictions in Slager's initial account of the incident, Scott can be seen running away from the officer after what appears to be a scuffle. It does not appear that Scott ever had his hands up. After the struggle, according to the video, Scott immediately turns and runs away. It could be argued that he did not need to have his hands up at that point to indicate that he was not being aggressive.
Despite not being physically threatened, Slager proceeded to fire at Scott eight times, forcing Scott to drop to the ground, motionless. It's unclear whether Scott was still alive at this point, but Slager continues to treat him as if he were a risk and handcuffs him from the ground. According to official law enforcement guidelines, officers are trained to cuff suspects regardless of how the officer subdued them.
Though the Department of Justice's investigation concluded that Brown never made the gesture or said the words, "Hands up, don't shoot" became a national rally cry used to protest police brutality and racial discrimination. There have been four cases with similar elements to Brown's caught on video in the last year, such as Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, and many others that weren't, like when a DeKalb County police officer shot and killed a naked, unarmed man with apparent mental issues last month.
Each and every one of these incidents underscore the importance of the broader movement behind "Hands up, don't shoot." And that includes the shooting of Walter Scott, regardless of whether or not he had his hands up.
Images: New York Times/screenshot