Two videos portraying events from the “traffic stop gone wrong” that ended when Walter Scott, a 50-year-old unarmed black man was shot and killed by Michael Slager, a 33-year-old white police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina, have shed light on multiple errors in Slager’s initial report.
The shooting occurred on Saturday morning, and it wasn’t until Tuesday that a video, which was taken on a bystander’s cell phone, was released. The video showed Slager firing eight shots at Scott, as Scott ran away. Following the release of the video, Slager was charged with first-degree murder.
Think Progress reported that “charges against South Carolina police officers for shooting someone are extremely rare,” and that it appears that during the two days between when the shooting happened and when the video was made public, Slager appeared to be “unaware that video of the entire incident existed.”
On Saturday, the Charleston Post and Courier reported that North Charleston police spokesman Spencer Pryor released a statement, claiming that “a man ran on foot from the traffic stop and an officer deployed his department-issued Taser in an attempt to stop him,” then when that did not work, “an altercation ensued as the men struggled over the device.”
The statement also claimed that Slager “resorted to his service weapon” and shot Scott, only after Scott “gained control of the Taser” and attempted to use it against Slager.
On Monday, the Charleston Post and Courier reported that Slager’s lawyer, David Aylor, released a statement, which closely resembled the statement from the North Charleston police, regarding Slager’s account of the incident.
Aylor said that Slager “thinks he properly followed all procedures and policies before resorting to deadly force.”
“When confronted, Officer Slager reached for his Taser — as trained by the department — and then a struggle ensued,” Aylor said. He went on to explain that Slager “felt threatened and reached for his department-issued firearm and fired his weapon,” when Scott “tried to overpower Officer Slager in an effort to take his Taser.”
As previously reported, Aylor announced on Tuesday morning that he is no longer representing Slager.
Think Progress noted that if the video of the incident had not surfaced, “that’s where the story might have ended,” as shown by a study conducted by The State, which found that police in South Carolina “have fired their weapons at 209 suspects in the past five years” but none were convicted, and the prosecutor “ruled all the shootings were justified.”
The video of the shooting, which was taken by Feidin Santana, a 23-year-old barber who immigrated to the US from the Dominican Republic, was made public on Tuesday.
Warning: The following video contains graphic content.
On MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, Santana said that he considered erasing the footage, because he was worried that if he release it, his life could be in danger.
“I felt that my life, with this information, might be in danger. I thought about erasing the video and just getting out of the community, you know Charleston, and living some place else,” Santana said. “I knew the cop didn’t do the right thing.”
Santana explained that he chose to release the video to Scott’s family, after he read the news reports about the shooting. He said, “It wasn’t like that, the way they were saying.”
In Slager’s account of the incident, he said he “felt threatened” by Scott, and only resorted to shooting Scott, after he claims that Scott reached for his Taser. The video of the shooting that was taken by Santana, appears to show Slager running back to the initial scene of the altercation, picking up his Taser, and then running back to Scott, and dropping the Taser next to Scott’s body.
On Wednesday, Arthur Aidala, a legal analyst for Fox News, said that in his experience, in the 1980’s and 90’s, the practice of police officers “planting a weapon” on a victim was “standard operating procedure,” and that police officers “would keep a second gun that nobody knew about on their ankle, so if they ever killed someone they shouldn’t have they would take that gun out and leave it.”
The State Law Enforcement Division of South Carolina released a video from the dash-cam in Slager’s car on Thursday. The video shows Slager approaching Scott’s car, and notifying him that he is being stopped for a broken taillight. After speaking with Scott, Slager returns to his car, and moments later, Scott jumps out of his car and started running away.
While the dash-cam video does include the audio of the moments when Slager attempted to stop Scott with a Taser, it does not show video footage of the two, and it does not include the moments when Slager pulls out his gun and begins to shoot at Scott.
The incident involving Scott is not the first time Slager has been involved in an altercation. On Thursday, The Guardian reported that Mario Givens, a black man from North Charleston who filed a complaint about excessive force against Slager in 2013, announced that he intends to sue the city’s police department. In his complaint, Givens said that Slager knocked on his door around 4 a.m. in Sep. 2013, and without giving a reason for the visit, demanded that Givens put his hands up. He said that he complied, but Slager proceeded to use a Taser on him.
The Charleston Post and Courier reported on Thursday, that the Scott family’s lawyer, Chris Stewart, has confirmed that the family plans to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against Slager.
Ben Swann discussed the shooting and what led up to it with on RT America, RT Correspondent Manuel Rapalo, who was reporting from outside City Hall in North Charleston, South Carolina: