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Black men still targets of police

Walter L. Scott shot 4 times in the back; cop charged with murder

Free Press wire reports | 4/14/2015, 12:35 p.m. | Updated on 4/14/2015, 12:35 p.m.
Four bullets to the back and one in the ear. That’s the unimaginable pain an unarmed Walter L. Scott suffered ...
Mr Scott, Mr. Slager

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C.

Four bullets to the back and one in the ear.

That’s the unimaginable pain an unarmed Walter L. Scott suffered as he was fatally gunned down by white police officer Michael T. Slager as he ran away following a routine traffic stop.

The gruesome slaying was graphically recorded on the cellphone of a bystander Saturday morning in North Charleston, S.C.

It is the latest in a string of highly publicized incidents across the nation — including Ferguson, Mo., New York City and Cleveland, Ohio — in which white police officers have killed unarmed black men. Each instance raises questions — and public consciousness — about disparate treatment by people of color by police and racial injustice in the United States.

Mr. Slager was charged with murder Tuesday and fired from the police department after the video surfaced. He is being held without bond. If convicted, he could receive the death penalty or life in prison.

He was arrested by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the agency investigating the shooting. The FBI and U.S. Justice Department also are investigating.

Demonstrators peacefully rallied Wednesday in North Charleston to express their outrage. They held signs that read “Back Turned, Don’t Shoot,” “Black Lives Matter,” “The Whole World Is Watching” and “We Are All Human.”

Civil rights leaders have called for calm, and many people praised the courage of the witness who filmed the officer shooting Mr. Scott. The witness gave the video to Mr. Scott’s family.

“When I saw it, I fell to my feet and my heart was broken,” Mr. Scott’s father, Walter Scott Sr., said on NBC’s “Today” show on Wednesday. He said the officer “looked like he was trying to kill a deer running through the woods.”

Without the video, he said, “it would have never come to light. They would have swept it under the rug, like they did with so many others.”

The video shows Mr. Slager, 33, without hesitation, shooting eight times at the 50-year-old Mr. Scott as he ran away after being stopped by Mr. Slager for a broken brake light.

Five of the bullets struck him, Chris Stewart, an attorney for the victim’s family, said.

Mr. Scott then slumps down to the grass.

According to a police report, Mr. Slager told other officers that Mr. Scott had taken his stun gun during a brief scuffle.

At no point in the video, which does not show the initial contact between the men, does Mr. Scott appear to be armed.

Without attempting to provide any life-saving aid, the officer is seen placing the victim in handcuffs as he lies on the ground. The officer then walks back to a spot near where he opened fire.

The video then shows him appearing to pick something up, returning to Mr. Scott and then dropping it on the ground next to Mr. Scott, apparently to stage the scene to match his description.

Muhiydin D’Baha leads protesters Wednesday outside of the North Charleston, S.C., city hall in calling for justice in the death of unarmed Walter L. Scott by former officer Michael T. Slager.

Muhiydin D’Baha leads protesters Wednesday outside of the North Charleston, S.C., city hall in calling for justice in the death of unarmed Walter L. Scott by former officer Michael T. Slager.

Mr. Stewart said Tuesday night that the incident is bigger than race.

“It goes to power itself. This was a cop who felt like he could just get away with shooting someone that many times in the back,” Mr. Stewart said. “It speaks to the value of human life.”