8 Apr 2015

White US officer charged with murder after black man’s death

A white police officer is charged with murder after the shooting of an unarmed black man in South Carolina. A video of the incident appears to contradict parts of the officer’s version of events.

White police officer Michael Slager (pictured below) has been charged with the murder of 50-year-old Walter Lamer Scott, after a shooting on Saturday morning.

The incident was recorded on a mobile phone and appears to show Scott, apparently unarmed, being shot after running away from a police officer after a traffic stop.

This was a cop who felt like he could just get away with shooting someone Scott family lawyer

The FBI and US Justice Department are investigating the shooting, the latest of several incidents that have raised serious questions about US policing and race relations.

Activists planned to protest in South Carolina on Wednesday and civil rights leaders have called for calm.

The witness who recorded the incident and gave the video to the victim’s family has been praised for their courage.

State Representative Justin Bamber told reporters: “This is what happens … when people are willing to step up and do the right thing for the right reasons.”

Warning: this video contains graphic images some may find disturbing

Chris Stewart, an attorney for Scott’s family, said the incident is bigger than race.

Read Kylie Morris blog: Another white officer, another black shooting

“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,” he said. “It speaks to the value of human life.”

Footage of shooting

The shooting took place on Saturday morning after 33-year-old officer Michael Slager stopped Scott for a broken brake light, police said.

The video shows a brief scuffle between the pair before Scott begins to run away.

Mr Slager is then seen taking aim with a handgun before shooting eight times at Scott’s back. Scott then slumps facedown onto the grass.

According to a police report, Mr Slager told other officers Scott had taken his stun gun from him.

Scott appears to be unarmed throughout the video.

Mr Slager is then seen placing the victim in handcuffs as he lies on the ground, and then the officer walks back to a spot near where he opened fire.

The video then shows him appearing to pick something up, return to Scott, and then drop it next to him on the ground.

Above: Channel 4 News looks back at some of the most controversial examples of US police officers using lethal force on black men.

Mr Slager could face the death penalty under hsi murder charge.

The victim’s family plans to file a lawsuit against him, the department and the city alleging that Scott’s civil rights were violated, the family lawyer said.

The person who filmed the video is speaking with investigators and will come forward publicly “at some point”, the lawyer said.

North Charleston is home to about 100,000 people, nearly half of whom are black, 2010 US census data shows.

By contrast, only about 18 per cent of North Charleston’s police department’s roughly 340 officers are black, according to a report from the local Post and Courier newspaper.