A South Carolina grand jury indicted a former North Charleston police officer on Monday for the murder of an unarmed man caught on video. Although the officer claims that he feared for his life after the suspect took his Taser, footage from a bystander’s cellphone revealed discrepancies in the officer’s account and a possible attempt to cover up the murder. The National Bar Association has called for the immediate termination and indictment of another officer involved in covering up the shooting.
At 9:33 a.m. on April 4, North Charleston Patrolman Michael Slager noticed 50-year-old Walter “Lamar” Scott driving with a broken brake light. According to his dash cam footage, Slager pulled Scott over and requested his driver’s license. As Slager returned to his patrol car to run a check on Scott’s license, Scott waited a few moments before suddenly exiting his vehicle and fleeing on foot.
Slager chased after him and reportedly fired his Taser at Scott in an attempt to subdue him. According to a statement released by North Charleston police spokesman Spencer Pryor, Scott managed to take Slager’s Taser from his hands and attempted to use the weapon against the officer. Slager claimed that he felt threatened, pulled out his Glock, and fired several rounds at Scott. But video of the shooting appears to contradict the officer’s account.
While walking to work, a bystander named Feidin Santana witnessed the incident and recorded a video of the shooting on his cellphone. In the video, Scott appears to slap something out of the officer’s hands before turning to flee. As Scott runs away from the officer, the prongs biting into his clothing begin to stretch the wires from Slager’s Taser.
Instead of chasing after Scott, Slager drew his gun and fired eight shots at Scott. Four bullets hit Scott in the back and one struck him in the ear. Two of the shots were fatal.
Immediately after gunning down Scott, Slager glanced at Santana before speaking into his radio. According to the incident report, Slager stated into his radio, “Shots fired and the subject is down. He took my Taser.”
After Slager cuffed Scott’s hands behind his back, Officer Clarence Habersham arrived at the scene. Slager immediately rushed back to the spot where he fired his gun and picked up an object. Slager then returned to Scott’s body and appears to plant his Taser next to him.
In the video, the officers lift Scott’s shirt to check on his wounds and feel his pulse, but they do not administer CPR. At the time of his death, Scott was wanted on a family court warrant.
On April 7, Slager was fired from the department and arrested for murder. Three days later, the National Bar Association issued a press release calling for the termination and indictment of Officer Habersham for his alleged involvement in covering up the murder. In his police report, Habersham failed to mention Slager planting evidence next to Scott’s body and claimed to administer CPR when the video clearly shows otherwise.
On Monday, a grand jury decided to indict Slager for the murder of Walter Scott. If convicted, Slager faces 30 years to life in prison. Habersham currently does not face any criminal charges.