Walter Scott shooting: White South Carolina police officer charged with murder after video shows him 'killing unarmed black man as he ran away'
A white US police officer has been charged with murder after a video emerged of him shooting an unarmed black man in the back as he tried to run away.
Michael Slager, the officer in North Charleston, South Carolina, gunned down 50-year-old Walter Scott five times following a scuffle between the two on Saturday morning after he reportedly tried to stop him over a broken light in his car.
News of the arrest came when the video, published by The New York Times, appeared to contradict the version of events given by Slager. The 33-year-old said that he had feared for his life after his stun gun had been taken by Scott.
The video shows the officer firing eight shots at Scott's back as Scott is running away. Scott falls on the eighth shot, fired after a brief pause. The video then shows the officer slowly walking toward him, and ordering him to put his hands behind his back.
When Scott doesn't move, Slager pulls his arms back and cuffs his hands. Then he walks briskly back to where he fired the shots, picks up an object, and returns the 30 feet (10 meters) or so back to Scott before dropping the object by Scott's feet.
Anthony Scott, the victim's brother, said justice had been served but questioned whether the truth would have emerged if the video hadn't been taken.
The video, which The New York Times suggested had been shot by multiple witnesses, cast a different light on events. Slager had initially released a statement through his lawyer arguing he had “followed all the proper procedures and policies of the North Charleston police department”.
Anthony Scott, Scott’s brother, said at a press conference: "My family is in deep mourning. I don’t think that all police officers are bad cops, but there are some bad ones out there.”
"I don't want to see anyone get shot down like my brother got shot down. We've all seen the video. If there wasn't a video, would we know the truth?
"But we do now the truth now.
"Justice will be served," he added.
At a press conference, North Charleston mayor Keith Summey said a “bad decision” had been made. “When you’re wrong, you’re wrong,” he 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.”
Mr Summey said Slager had been arrested and charged with murder, in what is an usually swift decision for an incident set against a backdrop of deep distrust following a number of shootings of black men at the hands of white officers. In pictures: Walter Scott shooting
Race relations have been in turmoil since a police officer shot a black teenager, Michael Brown, in the town of Ferguson, Missouri, in August last year. The US Justice Department released a report in May that found systematic bias in the city's police department and courts.
In July last year black New York City resident Eric Garner died after he was put into a chokehold by Officer Daniel Pantaleo. Both officers were white. Grand juries decided not to indict either officer, setting off large protests.
The spate of incidents lead President Barack Obama to launch an inquiry entitled "Task Force on 21st Century Policing", charged with interviewing police and community leaders across the country. That committee will report back later this year.
Independent News Service