White SC officer charged with murder for shooting black man

Video Prompts SC Police to Charge Officer With Murder

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- A white South Carolina police officer was charged with murder Tuesday, hours after law enforcement officials viewed a dramatic video that appears to show him shooting a fleeing man several times in the back.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey announced the charges at a hastily called news conference in which he said City Patrolman Michael Thomas Slager made "a bad decision."

The shooting, which began as a traffic stop, occurred as Americans grapple with issues of trust between law enforcement and minority communities after a series of deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police. They include the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner on Staten Island, New York. Both sparked protests nationwide.

26 PHOTOS
White SC officer charged with murder for shooting black man, South Carolina, Slager, Walter Lamer Scott
See Gallery
White SC officer charged with murder for shooting black man
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)
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)
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)
(photo credit: South Carolina Law Enforcement Division)
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
Officer Michael Slager fired 8 shots toward #WalterScott, Attorney says 4 hit him, 2 fatal: http://t.co/y8mqwG3zD6 http://t.co/LkwfB2SwQc
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)
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)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

In the Charleston case, authorities said the victim, 50-year-old Walter Lamer Scott, was shot after the officer already hit him with a stun gun.

"When you're wrong, you're wrong," Summey said. "When you make a bad decision, don't care if you're behind the shield or a citizen on the street, you have to live with that decision."

A video of the shooting released to news media outlets shows the officer firing several times at the man's back while he's running away. It then shows the man falling down, the officer slowly walking toward him, and the officer placing him in handcuffs. He then walks away as he talks on his radio, and Scott is not moving. The officer later is seen dropping something by Scott's side.

One of Scott's brothers told a news conference later Tuesday that the family was thankful for the video, shot by an unidentified witness, because without it, they might not have gotten justice.

"If we didn't see the video, would we know the truth?" said Anthony Scott. "From the beginning ... all we wanted was the truth. ... We can't get my brother back ... but through the process, justice has been served."

The Scotts' mother, standing with their father, shouted out "Thank you, Lord!" and "Hallelujah!" as the family's lawyer, L. Chris Stewart, began the news conference. Stewart said the family plans to sue the police department.

Slager's attorney, meanwhile, dropped him as a client Tuesday, a day after he had released a statement saying the officer felt threatened and that Scott was trying to grab the officer's stun gun.

"This is a terrible tragedy that has impacted our community," said the attorney, David Aylor.

North Charleston Police said Slager was arrested by officers of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said the Federal Bureau of Investigation will also investigate the shooting.

At the first news conference, North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers confirmed the suspect was shot as he was running away from the officer.

"I have been around this police department a long time and all the officers on this force, the men and women, are like my children," he told reporters, his voice cracking with emotion. "So you tell me how a father would react seeing his child do something? I'll let you answer that yourself."

North Charleston is South Carolina's third-largest city and for years battled back from an economic slump caused by the closing of the Charleston Naval Base on the city's waterfront in the mid-1990s.

But now the city has bounced back in a big way, largely in part to the huge investment by Boeing, which has a 787 aircraft manufacturing plant in the city and employs about 7,500 people in South Carolina, most of them in North Charleston.

In a separate case in South Carolina, a white police officer who shot a 68-year-old black man to death last year in his driveway was charged Tuesday with a felony: discharging a gun into an occupied vehicle. A prosecutor previously tried to indict North Augusta officer Justin Craven on a manslaughter charge in the February 2014 death of Ernest Satterwhite. But a grand jury instead chose misconduct in office, which is a far lesser charge.

Craven chased Satterwhite for 9 miles beyond city limits to the man's driveway in Edgefield County. After Satterwhite parked, the officer repeatedly fired through the driver-side door, prosecutors said. The 25-year-old officer faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the gun charge.

-----

Associated Press Writer Tom Foreman Jr. in Charlotte, N.C., contributed to this report.

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.