White South Carolina officer charged with murder in black man’s death

Walter Lamar Scott was unarmed and running away when he was shot by an officer who fired eight times.

by Bruce Smith and Jeffrey Collins, Associated Press | 4/8/2015, 11:57 a.m.
Walter Lamar Scott was unarmed and running away when he was shot by an officer who fired eight times.
Walter Lamar Scott (Photo: NBC News Screenshot)

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – Dramatic video that shows a white South Carolina police officer shooting a fleeing black man after a traffic stop has led authorities to file a murder charge against the officer amid public outrage over a series of deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of law enforcement agents.

A protest began with about 40 to 50 people Wednesday in North Charleston, led by a group formed after the fatal shooting of another black man in Ferguson, Missouri.

The video, provided to the dead man's family and lawyer by an unidentified person who shot the footage, shows North Charleston Patrolman Michael Thomas Slager firing eight shots at the back of Walter Lamer Scott as he runs away. The 50-year-old man falls after the eighth shot, fired after a brief pause.

Scott's parents appeared separately on TV shows Wednesday morning, a day after the officer was charged.

Walter Scott Sr. told the NBC "Today Show" that his son may have run because he owed child support and didn't want to go back to jail.

Scott Sr. said that in the video, the officer "looked like he was trying to kill a deer running through the woods."

Judy Scott called the video "the most horrible thing I've ever seen."

"I almost couldn't look at it to see my son running defenselessly, being shot. It just tore my heart to pieces," she said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Attorneys for the family said the man who shot the video is assisting investigators. The person has not been identified.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey announced the charge at a news conference Tuesday. Summy said Slager had made "a bad decision." Authorities said Scott was shot after the officer had already hit the man with a stun gun after a traffic stop Saturday that began over a faulty brake light.

"When you're wrong, you're wrong," Summey told reporters. "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."

Slager, who has been with the North Charleston police for five years, was denied bond at a first appearance hearing Tuesday. He was not accompanied by a lawyer. If convicted, he could face 30 years to life in prison.

The shooting comes amid ongoing public issues of trust between law enforcement and minority communities after such prominent deaths as those of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner on Staten Island, New York.

Heightened scrutiny is being placed by Americans 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 in the fatal shooting of Brown last August, leading to nationwide protests.

A local Black Lives Matter group, formed after Brown's death, planned a demonstration Wednesday morning at North Charleston City Hall.

About 30 people gathered ahead of the planned protest Wednesday morning.

"We have to take a stand on stuff like this," said Lance Braye, 23, who helped organize the demonstration. "We can't just shake our heads at our computer screens."