A white South Carolina police officer was charged with murder on Tuesday after a newly surfaced video showed him fatally shooting an unarmed black man in the back as he ran away, The Post Courier reports.
The North Charleston officer, 33-year-old Michael T. Slager, maintains he feared for his life during the Saturday traffic stop in a statement released earlier this week by his attorney. According to the statement, Slager stopped Walter Scott’s Mercedes-Benz sedan after he noticed the 50-year-old had a broken brake light. During the encounter, Scott allegedly took the officer’s Taser and ran from him. That’s when Slager fired his gun eight times.
According to police reports, Slager utilized the Taser prior to the shooting, but it did not stop Scott. Slager can be heard on the police radio reporting the shooting.
“Shots fired and the subject is down. He took my Taser,” Slager said according to police reports.
Video of the encounter, caught by an anonymous bystander, paints a different story, the New York Times writes:
The video begins in the vacant lot, apparently moments after Officer Slager fired his Taser. Wires, which carry the electrical current from the stun gun, appear to be extending from Mr. Scott’s body as the two men tussle and Mr. Scott turns to run.
Something — it is not clear whether it is the stun gun — is either tossed or knocked to the ground behind the two men and Officer Slager draws his gun, the video shows. When the officer fires, Mr. Scott appears to be 15 to 20 feet away and fleeing. He falls after the last of eight shots.
During a news conference Tuesday, Mayor Keith Summey said that Slager’s “bad decision” prompted his arrest.
“When you’re wrong, you’re wrong,” 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.”
Slager’s attorney, David Aylor, announced Tuesday that he would not be representing the officer anymore.
Although Slager, a former Coast Guardsman, served for more than five years with the department without any disciplinary action against him, he was the subject of two complaints, including one from a man who said the officer shot him with a Taser for no reason in 2013.
Slager was exonerated of any wrongdoing in the incident. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is currently investigating Scott’s fatal shooting.