South Carolina police officer charged with murder is fired

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Video Prompts SC Police to Charge Officer With Murder

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - A white South Carolina police officer who claimed he killed an unarmed black man in self-defense has been fired, the city's mayor announced Wednesday, a day after the release of a video showing the officer firing eight shots at the fleeing man's back.

The mayor also announced that he had ordered body cameras to be worn by every single officer on the force in North Charleston.

Protests began within hours of the murder charge against Michael Thomas Slager.

"I have watched the video. And I was sickened by what I saw. And I have not watched it since," Police Chief Eddie Driggers said. He was interrupted by chants of "no justice, no peace" and other shouted questions that he and the mayor said they could not answer.

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White SC officer charged with murder for shooting black man, South Carolina, Slager, Walter Lamer Scott
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South Carolina police officer charged with murder is fired
Former North Charleston Police officer Michael Slager talks with his attorney Andy Savage before a hearing in front of Judge Clifton Newman in Charleston, S.C., Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. The state judge approved bail Monday for a former South Carolina police officer charged with killing an unarmed black motorist. (Brad Nettles/The Post and Courier via AP, Pool)
CHARLESTON, SC - SEPTEMBER 11: Michael Slager (left) stands as defense attorney Cameron Blazer guides him toward the podium to speak in circuit court for the first time at the Charleston County Court House September 11, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Former North Charleston officer Slager is charged with the murder of Walter Scott after shooting Scott in the back during a traffic stop on April 4, 2015. (Photo by Leroy Burnell - Pool/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - SEPTEMBER 11: Michael Slager ( center ) at the podium on Friday the former North Charleston police officer spoke in court for the first time to circuit Judge Clifton Newman on September 11, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Former North Charleston officer Slager is charged with the murder of Walter Scott after shooting Scott in the back during a traffic stop on April 4, 2015. (Photo by Leroy Burnell - Pool/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - SEPTEMBER 10: Former North Charleston officer Michael Slager (C) is lead into court for a bond hearing at the Charleston County Court House September 10, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Slager is charged with the murder of Walter Scott. Slager shot Scott in the back when Scott ran away during a traffic stop on April 4th in 2015. (Photo by Grace Beahm-Pool/Getty Images)

In this image from video, Walter Scott struggles with police officer Michael Thomas Slager in Charleston, S.C., on April 4, 2015. Moments later, the video shows Slager firing eight shots at Scott's back. Scott's death was shown around the world and he became a symbol of the ongoing debate over police shootings of unarmed African-Americans. (Feidin Santana via AP Images)

In this April 4, 2015, frame from dashboard video provided by the North Charleston Police Department, Patrolman Michael Thomas Slager stands by Walter Lamer Scott's car during a traffic stop in North Charleston, S.C. The video captures the moments leading up to a fatal shooting that has sparked outrage as the latest example of a white police officer killing an unarmed black man. Slager has been fired and charged with murder. (AP Photo/North Charleston Police Department)
In this April 4, 2015, frame from dash cam video provided by the North Charleston Police Department, Walter Lamer Scott leaves his car after a traffic stop in North Charleston, S.C. The video captures the moments leading up to a fatal shooting that has sparked outrage as the latest example of a white police officer killing an unarmed black man. The officer, Patrolman Michael Thomas Slager, has been fired and charged with murder. (AP Photo/North Charleston Police Department)
In this April 4, 2015, frame from dash cam video provided by the North Charleston Police Department, Walter Lamer Scott leaves his car after a traffic stop in North Charleston, S.C. The video captures the moments leading up to a fatal shooting that has sparked outrage as the latest example of a white police officer killing an unarmed black man. The officer, Patrolman Michael Thomas Slager, has been fired and charged with murder. (AP Photo/North Charleston Police Department)
In this April 4, 2015, frame from dash cam video provided by the North Charleston Police Department, Walter Lamer Scott, left, appears to run away from Patrolman Michael Thomas Slager after a traffic stop in North Charleston, S.C. The video captures the moments leading up to a fatal shooting that has sparked outrage as the latest example of a white police officer killing an unarmed black man. Slager has been fired and charged with murder. (AP Photo/North Charleston Police Department)
This photo provided by the Charleston County, S.C., Sheriff's Office shows Patrolman Michael Thomas Slager on Tuesday, April 7, 2015. Slager has been charged with murder in the shooting death of a black motorist after a traffic stop. North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey told a news conference that city Slager was arrested and charged Tuesday after law enforcement officials saw a video of the shooting following a Saturday traffic stop. (AP Photo/Charleston County Sheriff's Office)
Rodney Scott, left, and his brother, Anthony Scott, appear at a news conference in Charleston, S.C., on Tuesday, April 7, 2015. The brother of the two men, Walter Lamer Scott, was shot and killed by a white North Charleston police officer following a traffic stop in that city on April 4. Authorities announced Tuesday that the officer has been charged with murder in the case. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - APRIL 10: A passer-by looks on at the site where Walter Scott was killed on April 4th by a North Charleston police officer on April 10, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Mr. Scott was killed by North Charleston police officer Michael T. Slager after a traffic stop and the officer now faces murder charges. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - APRIL 10: A memorial is seen through a fence marking the site where Walter Scott was killed on April 4th by a North Charleston police officer on April 10, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Mr. Scott was killed by North Charleston police officer Michael T. Slager after a traffic stop and the officer now faces murder charges. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Jerome Flood, of James Island, S.C., pauses for a moment of silence at the scene the killing of Walter Scott by a North Charleston police officer Saturday after a traffic stop in North Charleston, S.C., Friday, April 10, 2015. Scott was best man at Flood's wedding and Flood said he wanted to see where it happened. The officer, Michael Thomas Slager, has been fired and charged with murder. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Tiffany Williams (C), a childhood friend of Walter Scott, the 50-year-old man who was shot as he ran away from an officer after a traffic stop, is hugged by Project Street Outreach Manager Denise Cromwell, as she breaks down while visiting the spot where Scott was killed in Charleston, South Carolina on April 9, 2015. The shooting is America's latest high-profile police killing of a black man by white officers. A string of such shootings of unarmed victims, where officers are rarely charged, have sparked protests around the country with demonstrators alleging racism in the nation's police forces.  (Photo credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Joe Gilliard, of Summerville, S.C., looks over a fence toward the scene where Walter Scott was killed by a North Charleston police officer Saturday after a traffic stop in North Charleston, S.C., Thursday, April 9, 2015. The officer, Michael Thomas Slager, has been fired and charged with murder. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Chasyn Carter, right, of North Charleston, S.C., embraces Candice Ancrum, of Summerville, S.C., during a candlelight vigil outside city hall protesting the shooting death of Walter Lamer Scott, Wednesday, April 8, 2015, in North Charleston, S.C. Scott was killed by a North Charleston police office after a traffic stop on Saturday. The officer, Michael Thomas Slager, has been fired and charged with murder. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
(photo credit: South Carolina Law Enforcement Division)
Demonstrators pause for a moment of silence to protest the shooting death of Walter Scott at city hall in North Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, April 8, 2015. Scott was killed by a North Charleston police office after a traffic stop on Saturday. The officer, Michael Thomas Slager, has been charged with murder. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - APRIL 08: People participate in a rally to protest the death of Walter Scott, who was killed by police in a shooting, outside City Hall on April 8, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Video captured by a bystander showed officer Michael Slager shooting Scott as he ran away. Officer Slager has been charged with murder as a result of the incident. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)
After watching the video, the senseless shooting and taking of #WalterScott's life was absolutely unnecessary and avoidable. (1/2)
My heart aches for the family and our North Charleston community. I will be watching this case closely. (2/2)
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - APRIL 08: People participate in a rally to protest the death of Walter Scott, who was killed by police in a shooting, outside City Hall on April 8, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Video captured by a bystander showed officer Michael Slager shooting Scott as he ran away. Officer Slager has been charged with murder as a result of the incident. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - APRIL 08: People participate in a rally to protest the death of Walter Scott, who was killed by police in a shooting, outside City Hall on April 8, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Video captured by a bystander showed officer Michael Slager shooting Scott as he ran away. Officer Slager has been charged with murder as a result of the incident. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - APRIL 08: A family friend of Walter Scott, who was killed by police in a shooting, breaks down during a rally outside City Hall on April 8, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Video captured by a bystander showed officer Michael Slager shooting Scott as he ran away. Officer Slager has been charged with murder as a result of the incident. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)
Recap of the press conference: https://t.co/342hrODMkF #WalterScott
RT @celmorePC: Chief Driggers and other officers standing by #chsnews #WalterScott http://t.co/0lR9xN2EZg
Anthony Scott holds a photo of himself, center, and his brothers Walter Scott, left, and Rodney Scott, right, as he talks about his brother at his home near North Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, April 8, 2015. Walter Scott was killed by a North Charleston police officer after a traffic stop on Saturday. The officer, Michael Thomas Slager, has been charged with murder. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Officer Michael Slager fired 8 shots toward #WalterScott, Attorney says 4 hit him, 2 fatal: http://t.co/y8mqwG3zD6 http://t.co/LkwfB2SwQc
A man holds a sign during a protest for the shooting death of Walter Scott at city hall in North Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, April 8, 2015. Scott was killed by a North Charleston police officer after a traffic stop on Saturday. The officer, Michael Thomas Slager, has been charged with murder. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Anthony Scott, left, hugs visitors outside his home near North Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, April 8, 2015. Scott's brother Walter Scott, was killed by a North Charleston police officer after a traffic stop on Saturday. The officer, Michael Thomas Slager, has been charged with murder. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - APRIL 08: People participate in a rally to protest the death of Walter Scott, who was killed by police in a shooting, outside City Hall on April 8, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Video captured by a bystander showed officer Michael Slager shooting Scott as he ran away. Officer Slager has been charged with murder as a result of the incident. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - APRIL 08: People participate in a rally to protest the death of Walter Scott, who was killed by police in a shooting, outside City Hall on April 8, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Video captured by a bystander showed officer Michael Slager shooting Scott as he ran away. Officer Slager has been charged with murder as a result of the incident. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - APRIL 10: (L-R) Andrew Gordon, Mr. Turner and Swerve wear shirts reading, ' Don't Shoot Me', on the front and, 'While My Back is Turned' on the back, during a vigil in front of the North Charleston City Hall for Walter Scott on April 10, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Mr. Scott was killed on April 4 by North Charleston police officer Michael T. Slager after a traffic stop. The officer now faces murder charges. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Robert Jackson holds a sign during a protest in shooting death of Walter Scott at city hall in North Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, April 8, 2015. Scott was killed by a North Charleston police office after a traffic stop on Saturday. The officer, Michael Thomas Slager, has been charged with murder. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - APRIL 12: Rev. Jeremy Rutledge and his son look at a memorial built on the site where Walter Scott was killed by a North Charleston police officer, April 12, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Scott was shot and killed on April 4, 2015 by officer Michael T. Slager, who now faces murder charges. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - APRIL 11: The flag drapped coffin of Walter Scott is carried by pallbearers to his burial site at the Live Oak Memorial gardens cemetery, after he was fatally shot by a North Charleston police officer after fleeing a traffic stop in North Charleston on April 11, 2015 Charleston, South Carolina. Mr. Scott was killed on April 4 by North Charleston police officer Michael T. Slager after a traffic stop. The officer now faces murder charges. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - APRIL 12: The Rev. Al Sharpton speaks during a church service at Charity Missionary Baptist Church on April 12, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Sharpton addressed the congregation on issues surrounding the recent fatal shooting of Walter Scott by North Charleston police officer Michael T. Slager, who now faces murder charges. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - APRIL 10: People attend a vigil in front of the North Charleston City Hall for Walter Scott on April 10, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Mr. Scott was killed on April 4 by North Charleston police officer Michael T. Slager after a traffic stop. The officer now faces murder charges. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - APRIL 09: North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey bows his head in prayer before a City Council meeting on April 9, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. The City Council held their regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, with the addition of a two minute speech by Muhiydin Moye D'Baha of the Black Lives Matter movement on the recent shooting of Walter Scott by North Charleston Police Officer Michael T. Slager. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - APRIL 08: North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey answers questions during a press conference after the shooting death of an unarmed African Amerian man by police on April 8, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. The mayor announced that the officer, Michael Slager, has been fired and charged with murder in the death of Walter Scott after a traffic stop on April 4. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)
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The town will continue to pay for Slager's health insurance because his wife is eight months pregnant, said Mayor Keith Summey, who called the incident a tragedy for two families.

About 75 people gathered outside City Hall, led by a Black Lives Matter, a group formed after the fatal shooting of another black man in Ferguson, Missouri.

"Eight shots in the back!" local organizer Muhiydin D'Baha shouted through a bullhorn. The crowd yelled "In the back!" in response.

The video recorded by an unidentified bystander shows North Charleston Patrolman Michael Thomas Slager dropping his Taser, pulling out his Glock pistol and firing at Walter Lamer Scott from a distance as he runs away. The 50-year-old man falls after the eighth shot.

The dead man's father, Walter Scott Sr., said Wednesday that the officer "looked like he was trying to kill a deer running through the woods." He also told NBC's "Today" show that his son may have tried to flee because he owed child support and did not want to go back to jail.

The video is "the most horrible thing I've ever seen," said Judy Scott, the slain man's mother, on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"I almost couldn't look at it to see my son running defenselessly, being shot. It just tore my heart to pieces," she said.

The bystander is assisting investigators after providing the video to Scott's family and lawyers.

Deflecting many of the questions from a hostile audience at a news conference, Summey said Wednesday that state investigators have taken over the case.

Police initially released a statement that promised a full investigation but relied largely on the officer's description of the confrontation, which began with a traffic stop Saturday as Slager pulled Scott over for a faulty brake light.

Slager's then-attorney, David Aylor, released another statement Monday saying the officer felt threatened and fired because Scott was trying to grab his Taser.

Aylor dropped Slager as a client after the video surfaced, and the officer, a five-year veteran with the North Charleston police, appeared without a lawyer at his first court hearing Tuesday. He was denied bond and could face 30 years to life in prison if convicted of murder.

The shooting comes amid a plunge in trust between law enforcement and minorities after the officer-involved killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner on Staten Island, New York. Nationwide protests intensified after grand juries declined to indict the officers in both cases.

"We have to take a stand on stuff like this ... we can't just shake our heads at our computer screens," said Lance Braye, 23, who helped organize Wednesday's demonstration.

Scott's family and their attorney, L. Chris Stewart, appealed to keep the protests peaceful, saying the swift murder charge shows that the justice system is working so far in this case.

But Stewart said the video alone forced authorities to act decisively.

"What if there was no video? What if there was no witness, or hero as I call him, to come forward?" asked Stewart, adding that the family plans to sue the police.

The video, shot over a chain link fence and through some trees, begins after Scott has left his car. Slager follows him, reaching at the man with an object that appears to be a Taser stun gun. As Scott pulls away, the object falls to the ground, and Slager pulls out his handgun as Scott runs away. There is no indication that Scott was ordered to halt or surrender.

The final shot sends Scott falling face-down about 30 feet away. Slager then slowly walks toward him and orders Scott to put his hands behind his back, but the man doesn't move, so he pulls Scott's arms back and cuffs his hands. The officer then walks briskly back to where he fired the shots, speaking into his radio. He picks up the same object that fell to the ground before and returns to Scott's prone body, dropping the object near Scott's feet as another officer enters the scene.

Scott had four children, was engaged and had been honorably discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard. There were no violent offenses on his record, Stewart said.

He also speculated that Scott may have tried to run because he owed child support, which can lead to jail time in South Carolina until it is paid.

The FBI and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division are investigating as well. Proving that an officer willfully deprived an individual of his or her civil rights has historically been a tall burden for federal prosecutors, particularly when an officer uses force during a rapidly unfolding physical confrontation in which split-second decisions are made.

The Justice Department spent months investigating the Ferguson shooting before declining to prosecute officer Darren Wilson in that case. But it's easier to make cases against officers who use force as an act of retribution or who can make no reasonable claim that their lives were in jeopardy when they took action.

North Charleston is South Carolina's third-largest city, and its population is about half black. Its economy slumped after the Charleston Naval Base on the city's waterfront closed in the mid-1990s, but the city has bounced back with a huge investment by Boeing, which now employs about 7,500 people in the state and builds 787 aircraft in city.

Braye accused North Charleston police of habitually harassing blacks for minor offenses. He hopes the video will help people understand that some officers will lie to save themselves when they do wrong.

"This needs to be the last case," Braye said. "All you have to do is look at the story that was told before the video came out."

___

Smith reported from Charleston, South Carolina. Contributors include Tom Foreman Jr. in Charlotte, North Carolina and Eric Tucker in Washington.

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