Police Officer Faces Murder Charge for Shooting Unarmed Man in the Back

Originally published on April 9, 2015, at NationofChange.org

A South Carolina police officer was arrested on Tuesday and charged with murder after shooting an unarmed man in the back. Law enforcement officials arrested North Charleston Patrolman Michael Slager after a video surfaced recorded by a bystander who witnessed the incident. On the same day, another South Carolina officer was arrested on a felony weapons charge resulting in the death of another unarmed man.

At 9:33 a.m. on Saturday, Patrolman Slager noticed 50-year-old Walter “Lamar” Scott driving with a broken brake light. Some time after Slager pulled him over, Scott exited his car and fled on foot. Slager chased after him and reportedly fired his Taser at Scott in an attempt to subdue him.

According to Slager, Scott turned around to confront the officer and managed to take Slager’s Taser from his hands. Slager claims that he felt threatened, pulled out his gun, and fired several rounds at Scott. But video of the shooting appears to contradict the officer’s account.

A bystander who wishes to remain anonymous witnessed the incident and recorded a video of the shooting on his cell phone. In the video, Scott appears to slap something out of the officer’s hands before turning to flee. As Scott begins to run away, the prongs biting into his clothing begin to stretch the wires from Slager’s Taser.

Instead of chasing after Scott, Slager drew his gun and fired eight shots at Scott. Four bullets hit Scott in the back and one struck him in the ear. Two of the shots were fatal.

After gunning down Scott, Slager immediately glanced at the bystander recording the incident before speaking into his radio. According to the incident report, Slager stated into his radio, “Shots fired and the subject is down. He took my Taser.”

After Slager cuffed Scott’s hands behind his back, another officer arrived at the scene. Slager immediately rushed back to the spot where he fired his gun and picked up something. According to the Charleston Post and Courier, Slager then walked over to Scott’s body and dropped the object.

In the video, the officers lift Scott’s shirt to check on his wounds and feel his pulse, but they do not administer CPR. At the time of his death, Scott was wanted on a family court warrant.

“I can tell you that as a result of that video and the bad decision made by our officer, he will be charged with murder and that’s not something that we like to hear,” North Charleston Mayor R. Keith Summey announced at a news conference. “If you’re wrong, you’re wrong and if you make a bad decision don’t matter if you’re behind the shield… you have to live by that decision.”

Arrested on Tuesday and charged with murder, Slager has been fired from the force. The Justice Department and South Carolina Law Enforcement Division are investigating the case.

On the same day, North Augusta Public Safety Officer Justin Craven was arrested for discharging a gun into an occupied vehicle. After a slow-speed chase that ended in 68-year-old Ernest Satterwhite’s driveway on February 9, 2014, Officer Craven ran up to Satterwhite’s car door and shot him to death. The prosecution sought to charge Craven with voluntary manslaughter, but the grand jury indicted him on misconduct in office instead. Satterwhite’s family filed a lawsuit alleging Craven had disobeyed orders and lied about Satterwhite trying to grab his gun. The city settled for $1.2 million.

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