Amid chants of “No justice! No peace!” by protesters outside of City Hall in North Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, Mayor Keith Summey told reporters North Charleston has ordered an additional 150 body cameras so that every officer on the street in the city will have one. The decision is part of the city’s response to a video that captured the death of Walter Lamer Scott, an unarmed black man who was shot and killed by white South Carolina police officer, Michael Thomas Slager, according to the Associated Press. But the mayor’s proposition didn’t appease the crowd, who continued to chant "The mayor’s got to go!" according to CNN, and demanded answers to questions about whether CPR was performed on Scott after Slager shot him.
"I have watched the video and I was sickened by what I saw. And I have not watched it since, but ... in the end of it, what I saw was (what I) believed to be a police officer removing the shirt of the individual and performing some type of life-saving (procedure), but I'm not sure what took place there,” North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers told CNN.
Slager has since been fired and faces murder charges, but the town will continue to pay for his health insurance because his wife is eight months pregnant, Summey said, calling the shooting a tragedy for both families.
The officer told the police force he feared for his life because Scott took his stun gun after a scuffle between the two at a traffic stop on Tuesday, when Slager said he pulled Scott over for a faulty brake light. The video, which was taken by a bystander and provided to The New York Times by the Scott’s family lawyer, tells a different story. It begins in a vacant lot, moments after Slager had apparently fired his Taser. The wires of the Taser appear to be coming from Scott’s body as he and Slager scuffle when Scott then turns to run away. The officer fired his gun after Scott was about 15 to 20 feet away, and Scott falls to the ground after the last of eight shots was fired.
The video also contradicts statements by the police chief and North Charleston's mayor. For example, The New York Times points out that police reports say officers performed CPR and delivered first aid to Scott, but the video shows that he remained face down, with his hands cuffed for several minutes after the shooting. When an officer does arrive, the video shows him putting on blue gloves, but it doesn’t show him performing CPR. A third officer arrives with a medical kit, but he also does not perform CPR.
The FBI and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division are also investigating.
Since the video surfaced, Slager’s attorney, David Aylor, has dropped him as a client. Slager took the stand alone on Tuesday, was denied bond, and could face up 30 years to life in prison if he’s convicted of the murder. Slager was not available for comment.
Though it’s unclear whether race was a motivating factor in the shooting, protestors wearing “Black Lives Matter” t-shirts were not going to take a chance on this shooting being glossed over. "We have to take a stand on stuff like this ... we can't just shake our heads at our computer screens," Lance Braye, 23, who helped organize the City Hall protest Wednesday told the AP.
Though the Scott family’s attorney, L. Chris Stewart, said the swift murder charge is a good sign that the justice system is working this time (unlike in recent, similar cases in Ferguson, Missouri, Staten Island, and Madison, Wisconsin), he noted that it’s important to remember that it was the video that forced authorities to act decisively. "What if there was no video? What if there was no witness, or hero as I call him, to come forward?" Stewart said in a statement.
The treatment of the case already feels too similar to that of Eric Garner, a black man who died of an asthma attack that was brought on by being put in a chokehold by an officer who was trying to arrest him for illegally selling cigarettes. The whole thing was caught on video, but the officer was not indicted for murder by a New York grand jury.
The fact that someone is allegedly committing a crime doesn’t immediately allow the use of deadly force; rather, the Supreme Court has held that an officer can use deadly force against a fleeing suspect only when there is probable cause that the suspect “poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.”
Maybe body cameras could fix the gray area that allows officers to decide that deadly force can be used because someone “took” a Taser that was stuck inside of them or sold cigarettes illegally. Hopefully we will find out before the death toll climbs any higher.
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