On April 4, 2015, Walter Scott, 50, was shot eight times while running away from police Officer Michael Slager, 33. Five of the eight shots hit Scott in the back, buttocks and ear. The shooting in North Charleston, South Carolina has caused another uproar about another death of an African American man at the hands of a Caucasian police officer. Others have stated that it is another example of societal condemnation of police officers.
The shooting occurred at approximately 9:30 a.m. after Scott was pulled over for a broken taillight. A dashboard camera video from Slager’s car shows Scott being pulled over and the officer informing Scott that his brake light is out.
In the video, as Slager asks Scott about his license and insurance, Scott informs the officer that he only has his license. Scott did not have insurance or registration for the car because he had not purchased it; he planned on buying the car on April 6.
When Officer Slager returned to his vehicle, Scott is shown attempting to leave his car despite Slager’s directions to do otherwise.Shortly after, Scott is seen running from his car and from the scene. Toward the end of the video, Slager can be heard repeatedly shouting the word “taser” as he was warning Scott that he would be tasered.
A video taken by bystander Feidin Santana shows the shooting after what is described in the police report as a struggle over Slager’s stun gun. Scott runs away from Slager and the officer fires eight shots.
According to The New York Times, the police reports state that Slager disclosed on his radio, “Shots fired and the subject is down. He took my Taser.” The video shows that Slager proceeded to inform Scott, “Put your hands behind your back.” Slager walks over, handcuffs Scott and then proceeds to runs away from the body. He picks something up, as another officer, Clarence Habersham, arrives on the scene. As Slager walks back towards Habersham and Scott, he drops an unidentifiable black object by Scott’s body.
As a result of the video evidence, Officer Michael Slager was fired from the police force and charged with first-degree murder on April 6. According to The New York Times, he has been held in jail without bond since his arrest. When asked to comment on the arrest, Mayor of North Charleston Keith Summey stated, “When you’re wrong, you’re wrong. And if you make a bad decision, don’t care if you’re behind the shield or just a citizen on the street, you have to live by that decision.”
Additionally, the F.B.I., The Justice Department and The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division are all investigating this case, according to The New York Times. The investigation comes in light of the fact that this shooting follows the public uproar of police brutality and civilian killings, such as the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio and Eric Garner, in New York City.
Such repeated incidents have inspired social movements that range from in public protests and looting in the streets of Ferguson, to the social media hashtag, #blacklivesmatter. Reverend Al Sharpton, an American Baptist minister and a White House Adviser, has called for the arrest of Officer Habersham as well, according to The New York Times. However, despite Scott’s family’s appreciation for the Reverend’s support, they have politely stated that “the funeral is only going to be close family members.” The same-close family source stated, “We don’t want another Ferguson type of circus here,” The New York Daily News reports.
While there is an audible public outcry at the multiple deaths, others disagree, stating that society is quick to condemn the police force for acting in the line of duty. According to the New York Times, the Supreme Court has upheld the ruling that a police officer can shoot a fleeing suspect if that suspect is a danger to either the lives of the officer or others.
Due to the swift nature of Slager’s arrest, the uproar at this shooting has not been as extensive as Ferguson, but there is still a divide among the public as to whether these deaths are acts of racism or if the media is bashing the police for doing their jobs.
Editor’s Note: Information from The New York Times, USA Today, The New York Daily News and The Washington Times, as well as assistance from Elizabeth Stiles and Colin Swearingen was used in this report.