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Hundreds attend Walter Scott funeral

April 12, 2015

Mourners, including activists and politicians, gathered on Saturday to honor Walter Scott, the black man shot and killed a week ago by a white policeman. His death follows a series of similar incidents in the US.

Proteste USA North Charleston
Image: Reuters/Hill

The death of 50-year-old Walter Scott was an act of a racist cop, a minister told some 450 people attending the two-hour funeral service in South Carolina.

"There is no doubt in my mind, and I feel that Walter's death was motivated by racial prejudice," said Reverend George Hamilton, the minister at W.O.R.D. Ministries Christian Center.

The deadly incident on April 4 was captured on video, showing police officer Michael Slager firing eight shots and hitting Scott five times. Scott tried to run away from the police after a routine traffic stop.

Hamilton called Slager a disgrace to his police department, but added "we will not indict the entire law enforcement community for the act of one racist."

The overflow congregation included two black members of South Carolina's congressional delegation, Republican US Senator Tim Scott, as well as US Representative Jim Clyburn, a Democrat.

Some 200 additional people waited outside during the service because the church had reached capacity. However, mourners were able to enter at the end of the service and pay their respects.

Father of four

Scott's family arrived at the church in a convoy of three black limousines, escorted by police. They declined to speak to reporters.

The family's lawyer, Chris Stewart, said they would not "be put in corners based on color, based on creed."

"Their son is going to be remembered for changing the way we look at each other, because next time something does happen to an individual, be he African-American, you will now think maybe there's another side to the story," he said.

Scott was a Coast Guard veteran and the father of four children, one daughter and three sons. His friends described him as a gentle and lighthearted man.

Murder charges

Scott's death follows a series of similar incidents involving African-Americans killed by white police officers, which has stirred up racial tensions and sparked riots across the United States.

In perhaps the most well-known example, officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Missouri last August. He was cleared by a grand jury and the US Justice Department.

The officer who shot Scott, 33-year-old Slager, has been fired and charged with murder. He faces life in prison or the death penalty, if convicted.

"The officer's actions that day were very disgraceful to both the uniform and the badge that he was wearing," state lawmaker Justin Bamberg told reporters following the funeral.

dj/cmk (AP, AFP, Reuters)