8 Apr 2015

Another white officer, another black shooting

There are two things which are unusual about Walter Scott’s death. The quality of the video, and the fact that a policeman has been charged.

The two of course are not necessarily unconnected.

The officer involved, Michael Slager, has been charged with murder and the FBI and US Justice Department are investigating the shooting, as civil rights leaders call for calm.

It may be America, but the place the video recalls most easily is Soweto.

A white man in uniform, gunning down a black man as he strides away, running across open land.

It appears an execution. The steady hand of the eye witness guiding his phone to film the whole scene.

We know now that in the immediate aftermath, before the video was uploaded, the policeman claimed Walter Scott had taken his taser, and that CPR was attempted after the shots were fired.

Both of these claims are challenged by what we see in the video – the policeman picking something up from where the pair had wrestled, and dropping it by Walter’s body.

Did he know how to get away with what he’d just done? And there’s no obvious attempt at resuscitation.

Time and again

I’ve lived in the United States just one year. In that time, we have scrutinised CCTV from Cleveland of a 12-year-old boy Tamir Rice being shot at point blank range within half a second of a policeman springing from his patrol car, as Tamir stood with a replica pistol by his side.

We have revisited Ferguson many times, and witnessed the anger at the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, shot by a white policeman six times.

We have stood in Penn Station in New York City and watched hundreds of protesters flood into the hall in the name of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and Eric Garner, who was choked to death by a policeman on video, after he was questioned for selling single cigarettes.

We have stood at the vigil for James Boyd, a year after two police officers shot him dead as he surrendered to them, on a mountainside in New Mexico.

Two officers were charged over that – and now another officer charged over the death of Walter Scott. The family’s lawyer has appealed for the law to take its course. Walter Scott deserves at least that.

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