Demonstrators flocked to North Charleston City Hall in South Carolina on Wednesday to protest the shooting death of an African-American man by a police officer.
A video shows Officer Michael Slager, who is white, shooting 50-year-old Walter Scott eight times as Scott has his back to him and is running away. It appears that Scott was unarmed.
Slager is charged with murder, the FBI is investigating, and once again a police-involved shooting has sparked national outrage.
Though it’s unknown if race was a factor, protesters are wearing T-shirts that say “Black Lives Matter” and chanting the phrase that became popular after several police-involved killings of black men around the country.
“No justice, no peace!” demonstrators also shouted.
Use of stun gun questioned
Slager pulled Scott over on Saturday morning for a broken taillight, authorities have said.
The officer initially said that he used a Taser stun gun on Scott and that Scott tried to take his weapon.
But the video seems to show something else entirely.
When Scott’s brother Anthony Scott saw the video, he was convinced the officer had lied, he told CNN.
“There was not a struggle for the Taser,” Anthony Scott said. “I didn’t believe my brother would have done that anyway.”
To Anthony Scott, the videotape shows his brother was “running for his life” away from the officer to avoid being Tasered further.
“I think my brother was thinking he was not going to be shot, no one would have thought that,” Scott said.
The video shows Walter Scott attempting to run away. His back is to the officer, and he is a few yards away when the officer raises his gun and fires.
A man walking to work on Saturday made the video and provided it to the family, Anthony Scott said.
If convicted of murder, Slager could face life in prison or the death penalty.
Outrage on social media
“People are upset, people are pointing out how wrong the officer was for gunning down Mr. Scott,” South Carolina State Rep. Justin Bamberg said as he stood alongside Anthony Scott on Wednesday.
Bamberg said he hasn’t heard of anyone acting out violently to protest the shooting.
He and Scott stressed they don’t want that to happen.
“Things are in play now, and this officer is in the process of being prosecuted,” Bamberg said, imploring anyone listening to him speak on CNN: “We ask that you let the justice process run its course.”
Slager said that he used his Taser stun gun and that Scott took his Taser, according to police reports.
“Shots fired and the subject is down,” Slager said, according to reports. “He took my Taser.”
Before the officer started firing his gun, a dark object falls behind him and hits the ground. It’s not clear whether that is the Taser.
Later in the video, when the officer approaches Scott’s body, he drops a dark object next to the man. It’s not clear whether that is the Taser.
It’s unknown whether Scott took the officer’s Taser, or whether the officer picked the object up and moved it closer to the body.
“The officer said that Walter ran from the vehicle during the traffic stop,” Scott family attorney Chris Stewart said.
The beginning of the video shows two men standing close to each other.
It’s unknown what words were exchanged or what type of confrontation may have occurred before Scott ran away.
And it’s unclear why Scott ran.
Regardless, “running from an officer doesn’t result in the death penalty,” Stewart said.
Just after the shooting
Immediately after Scott was shot, according to the video, someone yells, “Put your hands behind your back!”
Scott, now motionless and face-down on the ground, is handcuffed.
It’s unclear why, according to the footage, Slager and another officer who arrive appear to not give first aid to Scott while waiting for an ambulance.
The mayor of North Charleston lambasted the killing.
“I can tell you that as the result of that video and the bad decision made by our officer, he will be charged with murder,” North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey told reporters Tuesday.
“When you’re wrong, you’re wrong. And if you make a bad decision — don’t care if you’re behind the shield or just a citizen on the street — you have to live by that decision.”
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina called the shooting “absolutely unnecessary and avoidable.”
It’s unclear how Slager plans to defend his actions.
According to CNN affiliate WCIV, Slager initially said through his attorney, David Aylor, that he followed the appropriate policies and procedures.
But Aylor later told CNN that he no longer represents the officer. It’s not unclear whether Slager has found a new attorney.
The race question
Slager is white.
Scott’s shooting stirred memories of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager killed by a white police officer.
But not everyone agreed Scott’s case is like Brown’s or that race was a factor.
“We can’t get into the brain of another individual, so we can’t state that,” said Stewart, the Scott family attorney. “I think it would be irresponsible to say that and try and inflame a community or anything of that nature.”
The Justice Department said it would “take appropriate action in light of the evidence and developments in the state case.”
“The South Carolina Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened an investigation concurrent with the S.C. Law Enforcement Division and are providing aid as necessary to the state investigation,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
“The Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the South Carolina U.S. Attorney’s Office will work with the FBI in the investigation.”
Whether Scott’s civil rights were violated will be part of the Justice Department’s investigation.
In the meantime, Slager remains behind bars. He was denied bail at a bond hearing Tuesday night, WCIV reported.
Instead of wearing his police uniform, Slager now wears a jail uniform.