Shooting drew together ordinary lives of driver, officer

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White SC officer charged with murder for shooting black man, South Carolina, Slager, Walter Lamer Scott
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Shooting drew together ordinary lives of driver, officer
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)
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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- But for a series of split-second decisions that followed a traffic stop, Walter Scott might still be alive and police officer Michael Slager still patrolling the streets.

When the two men's lives intersected on April 4, Scott had just purchased a used car from a neighbor. Slager was starting a routine weekend shift on a warm spring day. In a matter of minutes, one man was dead. Within days, the other was charged with murder.

A third man on his way to work captured the encounter on cellphone video that shocked the world and added fuel to the national debate about race and aggressive police tactics that began in August with the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Family members say Scott was so fearful of returning to jail over late child-support payments that he tried to outrun the law. And the officer, amid the adrenaline of a short foot chase, fired a fatal volley of eight bullets at the back of a fleeing suspect who appeared to pose no immediate threat.

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Walter Scott funeral
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Shooting drew together ordinary lives of driver, officer
SUMMERVILLE, SC - APRIL 11: A young child walks among mourners as they attend the funeral service for Walter Scott at the W.O.R.D. Ministries Christian Center, after he was fatally shot by a North Charleston police officer after fleeing a traffic stop in North Charleston on April 11, 2015 in Summerville, 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)
SUMMERVILLE, SC - APRIL 11: Judy Scott is greeted after the funeral for her son Walter Scott, at the W.O.R.D. Ministries Christian Center, after he was fatally shot by a North Charleston police officer after fleeing a traffic stop in North Charleston on April 11, 2015 in Summerville, 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)
US Senator Tim Scott (R), R-SC, departs following the funeral of Walter Scott at WORD Ministries Christian Center in Summerville , South Carolina on April 11, 2015. Hundreds of mourners gathered Saturday for the funeral of Walter Scott, an unarmed black suspect who was shot dead by a white officer in South Carolina as he fled following a routine traffic stop. Scott's death, which a bystander caught on video, has reignited debates about excessive police force and race relations in the United States. Scott's body arrived, where family, friends, politicians and law enforcement gathered to bury the 50-year-old father of four. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/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. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/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)
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
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)
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It all began with a traffic stop in North Charleston, a city that, not unlike Ferguson, has a large working-class black population policed by a force that is overwhelmingly white.

Scott was buying a nearly 25-year-old Mercedes-Benz sedan from a neighbor, and he knew in advance that it needed a few repairs. But it was still better than his van, a beater that would break down on the way to his job as a forklift operator in a distribution warehouse.

So that Saturday morning he picked up a friend from work and headed to an auto-parts store a few miles away.

Slager had been with the North Charleston Police Department for about five years, following a stint in the Coast Guard. He was watching out for traffic violations and waiting to answer trouble calls over the radio. If things went right, maybe he'd get home early enough to enjoy the rest of the day with his wife, who was eight months pregnant, and their two children.

A few blocks away, 23-year-old Feidin Santana was getting ready for work. As usual, the immigrant from the Dominican Republic planned to walk to his job at a barbershop, passing storefronts, houses and empty lots.

The three men did not know each other when they left their homes, but their lives collided shortly after 9:30 a.m., when Slager flipped on his blue lights to pull Scott over. Police said it was for a burned-out taillight.

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Scott knew he was in trouble. The father of four had fallen behind, again, on child support owed to his ex-wife.

So while he was still in the car, he called his mother to tell her he might be heading to jail, according to his older brother, Anthony Scott.

"He wanted to let her know he was getting pulled over and the way this was going, he'd probably be getting arrested," said Anthony Scott, his older brother. "In other words: Get ready to come and get me."

Slager told authorities that he fired his Taser at Scott as he ran, but the stun gun didn't work. Then during a scuffle over the weapon, Slager said, he shot Scott with his handgun in self-defense.

North Charleston police turned the investigation over to state law-enforcement officials. That night, the police department issued a news release, repeating Slager's account of the shooting.

But Scott's family was suspicious. They said the 50-year-old wasn't violent, had a steady job and was making plans to marry his girlfriend. As a young man, he had served two years in the Coast Guard. Years later, his brothers said, he earned a degree in massage therapy.

Even with all his struggles to keep up with child-support payments, his brothers said, Scott stayed close to his four children - a 24-year-old daughter and three sons ages 22, 20 and 16.

The family wanted answers. As word of the shooting spread in the community, many feared police would close the case without taking any action against the officer.

___

Then there was the video.

On his way to work, Santana noticed the confrontation between the white officer and a black man in an empty lot. He stopped, pushed record on his iPhone and captured a video that showed Scott running away and Slager firing eight shots at his back.

When Santana heard the man who was shot died, he started checking Facebook to see if he had a friend who knew the family. He did, and Santana reached out to them. On Sunday, a day after the shooting, he showed them the video.

It confirmed the family's worst fears, said Chris Stewart, attorney for the Scott family.

The following day, Santana gave a copy to state investigators.

___

The video immediately changed perceptions of what happened.

But there was more evidence that contradicted Slager's story, including video captured by a camera mounted on the dash of the officer's cruiser, as well as radio traffic.

With the dash cam, the traffic stop starts like any other. Slager is seen walking toward the driver's side window and heard asking for Scott's license and registration. Slager then returns to his cruiser. Next, the video shows Scott starting to get out of the car, his right hand raised above his head. He quickly gets back in the vehicle and closes the door.

Seconds later, he opens the door again and takes off running. Within a block or two, out of the dashboard camera's view, Slager catches up to him in an empty lot.

A recording of police radio traffic shows about three minutes pass between the call from Slager that he is conducting a traffic stop on a Mercedes and a second call to report that he is in a foot pursuit of a "black male, green shirt, blue pants."

The dispatcher can be heard calling for all other police units in the area to respond. Several officers reply that they're on the way. About a minute later, Slager can be heard yelling "Lie on the ground!"

About 50 seconds later, Slager radios the dispatcher: "Shots fired. Subject is down. He grabbed my Taser." On Santana's video, Slager is seen walking over to handcuff Scott, who is face down and motionless in the grass.

A voice on the radio asks Slager if everyone at the scene is "10-4," a radio code often used by officers to mean "OK."

Police officer Clarence Habersham, who arrived at the scene seconds after the shooting, responds: "Everyone is 10-4, except for the suspect. ... Gunshot wound, it looks like, to the chest, to the right side. Unresponsive. ... Another gunshot wound to the buttocks."

An ambulance arrives about seven minutes after the shots were fired. Scott is declared dead at the scene.

___

North Charleston officials announced Tuesday that Slager had been charged with murder. They quickly fired him from the police force.

Authorities refused to provide some details, including the name of the passenger who was with Scott at the time of the incident. A police report said the man was questioned at the scene and released.

Slager lived a mile from the shooting scene in neighboring Hanahan. Days after the shooting, the house looked empty. A car covered in pollen with a Coast Guard sticker on the window sat in the driveway.

Neighbors mostly politely declined to talk about Slager, saying he mostly kept to himself and walked his pug dogs.

Back at the empty lot where Scott was shot, people have left a steady stream of flowers, stuffed animals, notes and protest signs.

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