A white police officer in South Carolina has been charged with the murder of a 50-year-old black man shot eight times in the back as he ran away.
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.
In the Charleston case, authorities said the victim, 50-year-old Walter Lamer Scott, was shot after the officer had 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.
The footage was posted online by Charleston’s Post & Courier on Tuesday, and filmed by an anonymous bystander. It appears to show that a stun gun wire has already been deployed, but falls out as Scott runs away from Slager, who pulls out his firearm and shoots until Scott falls to the ground. The officer then walks over to the body and appears to talk into his radio. He reaches the body and shouts: “Put your hands behind your back now, put your hands behind your back”. Scott is motionless, his face down in the ground.