Walter Scott’s fatal shooting by white police officer unjustified – prosecution

Former police officer Michael Slager © Randall Hill
The police shooting of Walter Scott, an unarmed black man killed by a white officer, was not justified even if the officer was provoked, a prosecutor said in the trial’s opening arguments. The former cop fired at Scott’s back as he tried to flee.

“If Walter Scott had not resisted arrest, he wouldn’t have been shot. He paid the extreme consequence for his conduct. He lost his life for his foolishness,” South Carolina prosecutor Scarlett Wilson said at the murder trial of former North Charleston officer Michael Slager, the Post and Courier reported. “But we’re here… to bring accountability for [Slager’s] choices, for his decision to go too far… for his decision to shoot an unarmed man in the back five times.”

Addressing the jury, among whom only one person was black, Wilson acknowledged that Scott’s actions might have provoked Slager to pull out a gun, but the shooting was still unjustified.

“Walter Scott getting that Taser… it may have provoked [Slager], but it didn’t justify him,” Wilson said. She also demonstrated how Scott was killed for the jury.

Slager, formerly an officer for North Charleston, South Carolina is facing up to a lifetime in prison for charges related to the high-profile April 2015 shooting. Dashcam footage initially showed Scott being pulled over for a broken brake light then running away.

Another video from a discreet bystander’s cell phone camera subsequently captured Slager shooting Scott from a distance. The footage shows Slager firing eight times until Scott collapses, then Slager reporting “shots fired” on his radio and walking over and demanding, “Put your hands behind your back” and handcuffing Scott.

Slager, who has pleaded not guilty and has since been free on bail, insists that the video, which his team says is prejudicial, does not accurately reflect what happened that April when he stopped Scott. He claims that there had been a struggle over the Taser that culminated with Scott grabbing the weapon.

On Thursday, Slager’s team reiterated in the courtroom that his shooting of Scott was “awful but lawful.”

Defense attorney Andy Savage has blamed Scott for trying to run away after Slager pulled him over for a non-functioning tail light on the used car he had just purchased.

“Why did he choose not to respect the request to stay where he was? That’s something that I hope you consider,” Savage told the jurors, according to the Associated Press. “It wasn’t Mr. Slager who was angry and full of animosity.”

However, the prosecution maintains that Scott was fearing of going to prison for failing to pay child support payments.

Judge Clifton Newman ruled Thursday that Slager can remain free on bond during his trial.