Gap remains in video record of fatal SC police shooting

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
Raw: S.C. Dash Cam Video Shows Chase

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - Dashboard video shows a police officer making a routine traffic stop. Cellphone video shows the officer shooting the fleeing motorist in the back. What remains a mystery is what happened during the minutes in between that led the polite officer to become a killer.

The dash cam footage released by state police on Thursday showed North Charleston Officer Michael Thomas Slager pulling over black motorist Walter Scott for a broken brake light last weekend. Slager, who is white, has been charged with murder in Scott's death.

Saturday's traffic stop opens like so many others as Scott was stopped in a used Mercedes-Benz he had purchased days earlier, footage from the patrol car showed. At the outset, it's a strikingly benign encounter: The officer is seen walking toward the driver's window, requesting Scott's license and registration. Slager then returns to his cruiser. On the dash cam video, Slager never touches his gun during the stop. He also makes no unreasonable demands or threats.

The video also shows Scott beginning to get out of the car, his right hand raised above his head. He then quickly gets back into the car and closes the door. After Slager goes back to his patrol car, minutes later, Scott jumps from his car and runs. Slager chases him.

42 PHOTOS
White SC officer charged with murder for shooting black man, South Carolina, Slager, Walter Lamer Scott
See Gallery
Gap remains in video record of fatal SC police shooting
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)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

What's missing is what happens from the time the two men run out of the frame of dashboard video to the time picked up in a bystander's cellphone video a few hundred yards away. The cellphone footage starts with Scott getting to his feet and running away, then Slager firing eight shots at the man's back.

"It is possible for something to happen in that gap to significantly raise the officer's perception of risk," Seth Stoughton, a former police officer and criminal law professor at the University of South Carolina

Scott was almost $7,500 behind in child support and had been in jail three times over the issue, but no bench warrants had been issued directing officers to bring him in. His family has said that he might have run because he was behind on payments again and didn't want to go back to jail. He last paid child support in 2012, court records show.

Police and Slager's first lawyer initially said the officer fired in self-defense during a scuffle over his department-issued Taser. Within days of Saturday's encounter, the eyewitness video surfaced and immediately changed perceptions of what had happened, leading authorities to charge Slager with murder and fire him from the police force he'd worked on for five years.

On Friday, Slager's mother, Karen Sharpe, told ABC's "Good Morning America" that she couldn't believe her son - who loved being an officer and had a baby on the way - would have been involved in the incident. She said she's taking one day at a time and hasn't watched the cellphone video that helped bring about Slager's arrest.

"I just have to let it be and hope God takes care of everybody involved - not only my family but the Scott family because I know they're grieving just like I'm grieving, so I want them to know that," she said.

There is almost nothing in Slager's police personnel file to suggest that his superiors considered him a rogue officer capable of murdering a man during a traffic stop. In the community he served, however, people say this reflects what's wrong with policing today: Officers nearly always get the last word when citizens complain.

"We've had through the years numerous similar complaints, and they all seem to be taken lightly and dismissed without any obvious investigation," the Rev. Joseph Darby, vice president of the Charleston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said Thursday.

The mostly black neighborhood where the shooting took place is far from unique, said Melvin Tucker, a former FBI agent and police chief in four southern cities who often testifies in police misconduct cases.

Nationwide, training that pushes pre-emptive action, military experience that creates a warzone mindset, and legal system favoring police in misconduct cases all lead to scenarios where officers see the people they serve as enemies, he said.

"It's not just training. It's not just unreasonable fear. It's not just the warrior mentality. It's not just court decisions that almost encourage the use of it. It is not just race," Tucker said. "It is all of that."

As a steady crowd left flowers, stuffed animals, notes and protest signs in the empty lot where Scott was shot, many said police in South Carolina's third-largest city routinely dismiss complaints of petty brutality and harassment, even when eyewitnesses can attest to police misbehavior. The result, they say, is that officers are regarded with a mixture of distrust and fear.

Both Slager, 33, and Scott, 55, were U.S. Coast Guard veterans. Slager had one complaint in his personnel file of excessive force that was ultimately dismissed. Scott had the child support issues and traffic violations. But neither man had a record of violence. Slager consistently earned positive reviews in his five years with the North Charleston Police.

Slager's attorney, Andy Savage, said Thursday that he's conducting his own investigation, and that it's "far too early for us to be saying what we think."

The officer is being held without bond pending an Aug. 21 hearing on a charge of murder that could put him in prison for 30 years to life if convicted.

Slager's file includes a single excessive use-of-force complaint, from 2013: A man said Slager used his stun gun against him without reason. But Slager was exonerated and the case closed, even though witnesses told The Associated Press that investigators never followed up with them. Police say they are now looking at that case again amid questions by the man Tased and eyewitnesses who said authorities never questioned them about it.

"It's almost impossible to get an agency to do an impartial internal affairs investigation. First of all the investigators doing it are co-workers of the person being investigated. Number two, there's always the tendency on the part of the departments to believe the officers," Tucker said.

___

Biesecker reported from Raleigh, North Carolina. Associated Press writer Mitch Weiss in North Charleston, South Carolina, and Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, contributed to this report.

___

More on AOL.com:
Obama, Castro to share stage at summit as detente takes hold
Oklahoma diversity chief says he faced discrimination there​
Illinois governor confirms second tornado death

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners