Former North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager could be facing the death penalty after receiving a federal indictment related to his role in the murder of Walter Scott, an African American man pulled over for a broken brake light.
The shooting took place on April 4, 2015, in Charleston, North Carolina. Slager pulled Scott over for a non-functioning third brake light. Dashcam footage shows Slager walk up to the driver’s side window and talk to Scott, after which Slager briefly returns to his patrol car (presumably to run Scott’s information.)
While Slager was in his patrol car, Scott got out of his vehicle and ran. Slager decided to give chase.
The official report says that Slager and Scott became engaged in a physical confrontation, during which time the officer fired his taser. Reports say the projectile taser prongs may have only hit Scott’s clothing.
Around that time, an eyewitness named Feidin Santana started recording video of the incident on his phone during which he captured the now infamous fatal outcome.
Santana’s video shows Scott turning away from Slager and running. After taking aim Slager fires eight rounds striking Scott a total of five times.
Once Scott falls to the ground, Slager radio’s backup, stating:
Shots fired and the subject is down. He took my Taser.
The video also shows Slager dropping what appears to be a taser close to Scott’s prone body. In his official report, Slager stated that Scott disarmed him and threatened to incapacitate him with his own taser, forcing him to use deadly force.
However, both state and federal grand juries found that Slager lied about the incident, after reviewing the evidence which included the video which almost never saw the light of day. According to Santana he first considered not releasing the video.
I felt that my life, with this information, might be in danger. I thought about erasing the video and just getting out of the community, you know Charleston, and living some place else,” said Santana.
Thanks to Santana’s bravery, Slager was indicted on June 8, 2015, on state charges of murder. However, those charges fell short of the “aggravating circumstances” usually reserved for suspects who kill children or police officers, therefore, the maximum penalty would have only been 30 years in prison.
However, with a federal grand jury’s indictment of Slager on charges of violating civil rights laws, using a firearm in committing a crime of violence, and obstructing justice; Slager now qualifies for the death penalty if convicted.
Slager’s trial date is set for October 31, 2016.