A police office from North Charleston, South Carolina was charged with murder Tuesday, after a video emerged showing the white officer shooting an unarmed black man in the back multiple times. The incriminating video proved Michael T. Slager killed Walter L. Scott in a North Charleston lot Saturday morning. (Bustle was unable to reach Slager for comment.) And chatter surrounding the deadly incident — which was precipitated by a traffic stop quarrel — has hit fever pitch since a North Charleston news conference Tuesday evening apprised the public of the charges. But there's still plenty of confusion — what went down during the shooting?
Slager, 33, initially said that he was acting in self-defense, fearful for his life after Scott, 50, allegedly took the officer’s stun gun during a scuffle. But the video, which was filmed by a bystander and posted online by Charleston’s Post and Courier on Tuesday, contradicted several of Slager’s claims, showing Slager firing eight times as Scott bolts, seemingly unarmed. It's easy, seeing the footage, to wonder what happened between Saturday morning — when Scott went for a spin in his Mercedes-Benz sedan — and Tuesday, when his unjust killing went viral. (David Aylor originally served as Slager's attorney and released a statement on the police officer's behalf that insisted the officer was overpowered in the incident. Aylor, however, stopped representing Slager after watching the video. It is not clear who is currently representing Slager.)
Though The Independent offers a handy timeline of the initial events, here's a day-to-day rundown chronicling the incident and its aftermath.
9:30 am (approximately): Officer Slager stops Scott for a broken taillight, according to police reports. Scott apparently moves away from his car and is pursued by the officer on foot.
This is where the video kicks in — its contents are widely known and have been detailed previously by Bustle’s Melanie Schultz. So I will briefly mention again only particular points of interest.
0:23 Having shot Scott in the back multiple times, Slager reportedly made a call to the police command, saying: “Shots fired and the subject is down. He took my Taser.” This action (Scott taking the Taser) is not immediately evident in the video footage, and although the viewer can see Slager speaking into his mike, his actual words are hard to decipher.
0:49 - 1:12 Slager diligently appears to fasten handcuffs onto his fallen victim, despite Scott’s lack of responsiveness. He then walks away, picks up an unidentified object (dropped during the initial altercation) and walks back to Scott’s body. He proceeds to drop this object next to Scott.
Another officer appears and asks for his “kit,” but does not move Scott—who has been lying face down for over a minute at this point.
1:55 The other officer finally puts on medical gloves and bends down to tend to Scott.
3:14 Three minutes in to the incident, Slager finally checks the pulse of the face-down Scott.
The Independent notes that although another video shows several other officers present — one with a medical kit — no one is filmed attempting to perform CPR. Paramedics pronounced Scott dead at the scene.
Later on Saturday: Initial media reports cast the shooting as the result of the “scuffle,” described by Slager in his report.
Anthony Scott, brother of the deceased, reportedly meets with police near the scene of the shooting.
Anthony Scott releases a public statement, promising to find out the truth of what happened to his brother. He tells The Post and Courier:
We just would like for justice to be taken, for justice to be served, and we would like for the truth to come out so my brother can rest in peace… Whatever happened yesterday, that’s all we want is the truth, and we will go to any length to get it.
The family gathers in the empty lot where Walter Scott was shot, and meets with community activists. They call for transparency. No details — except for vague intimations of an altercation over the officer’s Taser — have been released.
Attorney L. Chris Stewart arrives in North Charleston to represent the family.
Authorities identified Slager (an active officer in the city since December 2009), and outlined his reasons for the traffic stop that turned fatal. Police documents (as outlined above) were publicly released to show that Slager had given a reason for his actions almost immediately.
Slager’s attorney says the officer felt threatened before the shooting, because Scott tried to “overpower” him and take his Taser. The Post and Courier reports that Slager believed he had followed all procedures and policies before pulling the trigger.
The released report said Slager fired multiple times, but did not specify how many. The report stated that backup officers performed first aid and CPR on Scott until paramedics showed up.
Scott, it is reported, had been arrested 10 times in the course of his life. The first arrest, in 1987, was on an assault and battery charge. This, The Post and Courier writes, was the only previous arrest related to violence. (The rest, according to The New York Times, surrounded child support payments and court attendance.)
Slager, meanwhile, was reportedly a former military man who had never been disciplined during his time on the police force. The Post and Courier details Slager’s history, mentioning two previous complaints — one over unnecessary force. In that case, he was exonerated of wrongdoing.
At this stage, the authorities would not say whether anyone else had witnessed the event. No one had called the 911 center following the shooting, they said.
The bystander who witnessed the event and managed to film the shooting shows the video to the Scott family. The family hand it to the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED). City officials are shown the video, as are several media outlets, including The New York Times and The Post and Courier.
Slager is arrested and charged with murder.
A press conference is held, and North Charleston mayor Keith Summey speaks. Slager made a “bad decision,” he says:
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.
The FBI and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division launch their own separate investigations into the incident. The Justice Department released a statement, which read:
The Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the South Carolina US Attorney’s Office will work with the FBI in the investigation. The Department of Justice will take appropriate action in light of the evidence and developments in the state case.
The Scott family calls for justice, but also appeals for calm — perhaps in the hopes that Scott’s death will not precipitate Ferguson-style unrest. They announce that they plan to file a civil lawsuit against the police.
"I would like for America to know that we want this to stop, and I would like for cops to be accountable,” Anthony Scott said on CNN. “I want to see more accountability in United States, and I don’t want to see any more violence… Change can come over America where no other family will have to suffer the way my family is suffering right now.”
On NBC's Today show, Scott’s parents expressed their gratitude to the anonymous bystander. Walter Scott Senior said:
It would’ve never come to light – they would’ve swept it under the rug like they’ve done many others… When I saw it I fell to my feet, and my heart was broken, and I said: "Oh no, it can’t be," and when I saw it I just couldn’t take it any more.
A makeshift memorial is in the process of being erected on the empty lot, the scene of the shooting, according to The New York Times. A couple dozen people gathered outside North Charleston’s City Hall to protest police practices.
Images: Getty Images (1); The New York Times (3)