A former South Carolina police officer has been charged by a Charleston County grand jury with murder in the April death of 50-year-old Walter Scott. If he is found guilty, he could face 30 years to life in prison.
Officer Michael Slager, who has since been removed from the force, fatally shot Scott on April 4 after pulling the father of four over for a broken taillight. According to dash cam video, Slager approached Scott’s vehicle and asked for identification. Scott presented his driver’s license, but told the officer that he lacked the proper registration because he was in the process of purchasing the car. Scott then attempted to leave the vehicle, but Slager ordered him to stay put. When Slager returned to his squad car with Scott’s license, Scott opened the door and fled—family members have said that he ran because he owed back child support—into a grassy lot.
A widely circulated video captured by a witness shows Slager chasing after Scott before pulling a gun and firing eight times. Slager shoots Scott five times in the back before the victim collapses on the ground. As he lies unresponsive, Slager approaches and handcuffs him without administering any medical attention. Slager claims that he feared for his life after an alleged scuffle (which wasn’t captured on video) in which Scott reportedly reached for his taser, but there is no evidence to support that. Scott was unarmed.
“The Scott family is as happy as can be,” Scott family attorney Chris Stewart told The Guardian. “But of course, the indictment does not make them whole for the loss they have suffered.”
Slager’s attorneys, who claim that they don’t know the details specified in the state’s case, have not issued a comment on the indictment.
The Scott family is preparing to file a civil lawsuit against Slager. Slager is currently being held at the county jail.