CHARLESTON, S.C. – Leaders of local civil rights organizations had been taking a wait-and-see approach to the April 4 North Charleston police shooting death of 50-year-old Walter Scott, but voiced concern that Scott was unarmed when he was shot and that police said Scott had run away from the officer attempting to arrest him. Officer Michael Slager was charged on Tuesday with murder after a video of the incident revealed he wantonly shot Scott in the back.
The video shows Slager drawing his service weapon and firing eight times as Scott runs away, eventually falling after the final round struck him.
“We’ve lost another Black man shot by the police,” North Charleston Branch NAACP President Ed Bryant said on Monday before the video’s existence was made public. “We have Ferguson right here,” he said alluding to the nationally protested police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson Mo.
Police had not released much information about the North Charleston incident. It was being investigated by the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), which follows protocol in such incidents.
On Monday, North Charleston police said 33-year-old Michael Slager shot Scott after a traffic stop because of a faulty brake light. According to a police report made public Monday, Slager called for backup during a foot pursuit before saying he had deployed his taser. Later, however, he said shots had been fired and the suspect was down.
Scott was pronounced dead at the scene by EMS paramedics.
“My thing is Scott did not have to die,” Bryant said Monday. “I think it is the unwarranted killing of another Black man.”
North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers agreed.
In a statement delivered Tuesday afternoon, Driggers said the video obtained by the victim’s family that later was turned over to SLED revealed there was no struggle with Slager. It shows Scott running away from Slager and the officer drawing his weapon and firing at Scott’s back multiple times.
Initially, Slager claimed that Scott had tried to wrestle the taser from him and use it against him before he shot Scott. Driggers said that version of the incident was proven to be inaccurate by the video that was recorded by a witness.
“Surely some questions must be answered,” said Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott Monday before the contents of the video was made public. “It makes no sense that the officer could get close enough to someone running away and fight over a taser and the man ends up dead. Tragically, another unarmed Black man has been shot by the police.”
S.C. National Action Network President James Johnson said he was present when the witness gave Scott’s family the video, but did not know what it showed. At the time, he agreed that a lot of questions remained unanswered.
“We’re asking for transparency,” he said.
That request was met Tuesday.
“I knew the tape was damaging although I didn’t know what was on it,” Johnson said after North Charleston police held the press conference to reveal the new development. “North Charleston police made a quick response and the right response. The arrest was the right thing to do. Now we hope the solicitor will prosecute.”