A white South Carolina police officer has been charged with murder after he shot a black man in the back as the man was fleeing from the officer. A video clearly captures the scene of the murder where the officer fires 8 times. The North Charleston police officer has been identified as Michael Slager, and the victim’s name is Walter Scott (50). If found guilty of the murder, Slager could face life in prison or the death penalty. A statement from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said the shooting took place after a traffic stop.
According to the Charlotte Observer, the officer reported on his radio “Shots fired and the subject is down. He took my Taser”. The video depicts a different accounting. The officer is seen running towards the fallen man and then back to the scene of the initial scuffle where he appears to pick an object off the ground and then deposits an object near the body.
COMMENT: Once again, the existence of a video proved to alter the events of a devastating encounter between a police officer and a citizen. One must ask, what would have happened in this case had a bystander not captured the events on a video? Some states require, or highly recommend that officers carry body cameras on their person, the same policies exist for squad cars. The problem with these policies is that officers still have the power to exercise too much control over whether and when the cameras are activated; in a recent case in Minnesota a police officer testified that his squad video had a 10 15 second delay period before starting to actually film- in that case, the basis for the stop, an alleged faulty break light, was not on tape because of the department’s policy. In some states (not federal), the police are required to tape statements made by defendants and this has resulted in a substantial improvement in the manner and integrity in which statements are taken from defendants.