North Charleston police officer charged with murder after witness video released
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) —
Mayor Keith Summey said today that the North Charleston police officer who shot a man during a traffic stop Saturday morning will be charged with murder after eyewitness video surfaced that appears to show the officer firing shots at 50-year-old Walter Scott as he ran away.
Officer Michael Slager has been taken into custody and charged with murder by the State Law Enforcement Division, which is investigating the shooting along with the FBI, the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the South Carolina U.S. Attorney's Office. Slager was denied bail at a bond hearing Tuesday night.
"This is a very difficult and emotional time for our state," S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson said Wednesday. "I have already spoken with Chief Mark Keel and Solicitor Scarlett Wilson on this matter and I am very confident that the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division will conduct a very thorough and fair investigation and that Solicitor Wilson's office will uphold the rule of law. Our office is always available to assist if we are needed."
The graphic video shows a tussle between Slager and Scott and then Scott running away as Slager fired eight shots.
"The video is very demonstrative of exactly what happened," Summey said. "That was the only witness there was. Without the video it would be difficult to ascertain what did occur."
North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers, breaking down into tears during a Tuesday press conference, called it a tragic day.
"You know, I think all of these officers on the force, men and woman, are like my children. So you tell me how a father would react to his child doing something like this."
Summey said the city's heart goes out to the victim's family and that the city will take responsibility for one officer's "bad decision." He said he couldn't speculate what would have happened had the video not surfaced.
The press conference came hours after the eyewitness video of the shooting was released to SLED agents and multiple news outlets.
Summey thanked the man who recorded it. He said it helped them resolve the issue.
Slager initially said through his attorney that he believed he followed policies and procedures when he shot Scott Saturday morning. The attorney, David Aylor, announced at 5 p.m. -- minutes before the press conference -- that he no longer represents Slager.
The shooting happened about 9:30 a.m. Saturday when Slager told investigators he pulled over Walter Scott for a broken tail light at the corner of Remount and Craig roads.
According to an incident report, officers hearing Slager say over the radio that he had deployed his Taser and "seconds later" he said "Shots fired and the subject is down. He took my Taser."
Scott family attorney Chris Stewart questioned what would have happened if the video never surfaced.
"What if there was no video? What if there was no witness, or hero as I call him, to come forward?" Stewart said. "Then this wouldn't have happened because as you can see the initial reports stated something totally different. The officer said that Mr. Scott attacked him and pulled his Taser and tried to use him. But somebody was watching."
The story spread across the world, trending nationally both on Twitter and Facebook.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott had this to say on Twitter: "After watching the video, the senseless shooting and taking of #WalterScott's life was absolutely unnecessary and avoidable. My heart aches for the family and our North Charleston community. I will be watching this case closely."
U.S. Congressman Mark Sanford wrote, "I believe the unfathomable and unconscionable killing of Walter Scott, captured on video for all four of his children to see, should be met with real consequence and a thorough review. My prayers are with the family and friends of Walter Scott and all affected in this tragedy."
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Walter Scott," Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement. "
The horrific video is very difficult to watch and deeply troubling on many fronts. I have full confidence this incident will continue to be investigated by the relevant authorities, the legal process will proceed, and ultimately, justice will be done. I also know the actions of the officer in this situation do not accurately reflect on the many valuable contributions made by thousands of law enforcement officers in South Carolina and across our nation."
State Representative Bakari Sellers took to Twitter to react to the shooting. He writes, "When you say your "Now I lay mes" tonight pray for #walterscott and his family. Pray for our country and its healing."
Gov. Nikki Haley released this statement: "We have many good law enforcement officers in the field. What happened in this case is not acceptable in South Carolina, nor is it reflective of our values or of the way most of our law enforcement officials act, and I assure all South Carolinians that the criminal judicial process will proceed fully. This is a sad time for everyone in South Carolina, and I urge everyone to work together to help our community heal."
Community members are planning to protest the shooting in front of North Charleston City Hall beginning at 9:30 a.m.