Cop murder charge after shock video

Published: Wednesday 8th April 2015 by The News Editor

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A white South Carolina police officer has been charged with murder hours after authorities saw a dramatic video that appears to show him shooting a fleeing black man several times in the back.

North Charleston mayor Keith Summey announced the charges at a hastily-called news conference in which he said City Patrolman Michael Slager made “a bad decision”.

The shooting, which began as a traffic stop, occurred as Americans grapple with issues of trust between police and minority communities after a series of deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of officers.

They include the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner on Staten Island, New York. Both sparked protests nationwide.

In the Charleston case, authorities said the victim, Walter Scott, 50, was shot after the officer had already hit him with a stun gun.

“When you’re wrong, you’re wrong,” Mr Summey said. “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.”

A video of the shooting released to news outlets shows the officer firing several times at the man’s back while he was running away. It then shows the man falling down, the officer slowly walking towards him, and placing him in handcuffs. He then walks away as he talks on his radio, with Mr Scott not moving. The officer is later seen dropping something by Mr Scott’s side.

One of Mr Scott’s brothers told a news conference later that the family was thankful for the video, shot by an unidentified witness, because without it they might not have got justice.

“If we didn’t see the video, would we know the truth?” said Anthony Scott. “From the beginning all we wanted was the truth. We can’t get my brother back but through the process, justice has been served.”

The Scotts’ mother, standing with their father, shouted “Thank you, Lord!” and “Hallelujah!” as the family’s lawyer Chris Stewart began the news conference. Mr Stewart said the family planned to sue the police department.

Mr Slager’s lawyer, David Aylor, dropped him as a client a day after he had released a statement saying the officer felt threatened and that Mr Scott was trying to grab the officer’s stun gun.

“This is a terrible tragedy that has impacted our community,” said Mr Aylor.

North Charleston Police said Mr Slager was arrested by officers of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said the FBI would also investigate the shooting.

At the news conference, North Charleston police chief Eddie Driggers confirmed Mr Scott was shot as he was running away from the officer.

“I have been around this police department a long time and all the officers on this force, the men and women, are like my children,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion. “So you tell me how a father would react seeing his child do something? I’ll let you answer that yourself.”

A woman who answered the phone at Mr Scott’s home, who identified herself as his niece, said: “That’s great. That’s great,” when told about the murder charge before hanging up.

North Charleston is South Carolina’s third largest city and for years battled back from an economic slump caused by the closing of the Charleston Naval Base on the city’s waterfront in the mid-1990s.

But now the city has bounced back in a big way, due largely in part to the huge investment by Boeing, which has a 787 aircraft manufacturing plant in the city and employs about 7,500 people in the state, most of them in North Charleston.

The shooting happened as heightened scrutiny is being placed on police officer shootings, particularly those that involve white officers and unarmed black suspects.

A grand jury declined to indict Ferguson, Missouri, officer Darren Wilson over the fatal shooting of Mr Brown last August.

Published: Wednesday 8th April 2015 by The News Editor

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