After video footage of a police encounter surfaced, the police officer in the video was charged with murder. As with most of these types of videos, we don’t have a whole lot of context. All we see is a cop confronting a black man, and then the black man starts to run away. In response, the cop shoots at the man several times and ends up hitting him a total of five times, four times in the back and once in the ear.
I would argue that it doesn’t matter what the issue was, this shooting was totally uncalled for. What in the world could the guy have said or done that would have warranted such a reaction by the cop? Even if he were being questioned about a serious crime he may have been involved in, the cop is not the executioner. (Well, he is in this case, but he shouldn’t have been.) If it was a serious situation, the cop should have called for backup and chased the guy down to arrest him. As police always say, “let the judge sort it out.”
As you can see from the video, the man didn’t exactly sprint away. He was a little older, so he struggled to get away, which makes the shooting all the more baffling.
A white North Charleston [South Carolina] police officer was arrested on a murder charge after a video surfaced Tuesday of the lawman shooting eight times at a 50-year-old black man as the man ran away.
Walter L. Scott, a Coast Guard veteran and father of four, died Saturday after Patrolman 1st Class Michael T. Slager, 33, shot him in the back.
Five of the eight bullets hit Scott, his family’s attorney said. Four of those struck his back. One hit an ear.
The footage filmed by a bystander, which The Post and Courier obtained Tuesday from a source who asked to remain anonymous, shows the end of the confrontation between the two on Saturday after Scott ran from a traffic stop. It was the first piece of evidence contradicting an account Slager gave earlier this week through his attorney.
There was apparently some sort of struggle that’s hard to make out on the video, because it was shaky. Either the cop tried to taser the man, and the man tried grabbing the taser; or the cop dropped his taser; or some combination of the above. The cop had stated that he felt threatened by the man as he ran off. Perhaps the cop thought the guy had his taser. According to The Post and Courier, the video shows the cop going to the place where he had shot his gun, picking up something and bringing it over to where Scott’s body lay and dropping it next to his body. Could that have been the taser that the cop thought Scott had wrestled away from him?
Prosecutors had said that had the video not surfaced, this case would have gone very differently, because all they had was the officer’s report, which also apparently stated that they “desperately” tried to revive the man after he’d been shot. According to the video, there were no such attempts to revive the man, much less “desperate” attempts to do so.
The Post and Courier shed some light on the nature of the encounter, which started as a traffic stop for a broken tail light. Scott took off running and was later stopped by the cop, and that’s where the video started:
At the time, he was wanted for arrest on a Family Court warrant, Charleston County sheriff’s Maj. Eric Watson said Tuesday.
He had a history of arrests related to contempt of court charges for failing to pay child support. The only accusation of violence against Scott during his lifetime came through an assault and battery charge in 1987.
So, he probably didn’t pay his child support, and so there was a warrant for his arrest. At the traffic stop, I’m sure the cop checked for outstanding warrants and told Scott he was under arrest.
Should Scott have run? Of course not. But Scott’s running away did not in any way endanger the cop to the point that the cop needed to kill the guy.