A second video released Thursday has revealed new details into the death of unarmed African American Walter Scott at the hands of white police officer Michael Slager.
Taken from the dashboard of Slager's patrol car, the footage shows a traffic stop like any other: Scott was pulled over in a used Mercedes-Benz he had recently bought. Officer Slager walked to the driver's side window and could be heard asking for Scott's license and vehicle registration. When Slager returned to his car, Scott started to get out of the car before quickly getting back inside and closing the door. Seconds later, he opened the door again and took off running.
Within a few city blocks, Slager caught up with Scott in an empty lot. A second video, captured by a witness on his cell phone, shows Scott running away again and Slager firing eight shots in his back before he finally fell.
It was this recording that led to the police officer being charged with murder, a striking difference to recent cases in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City, where white officers were not charged in the deaths of African Americans, sparking outrage and protest across the country.
Officer's story didn't add up
The two videos contradicted Slager's earlier statements that he had fired in self-defense. Police in North Charleston, South Carolina said Thursday that they were suspicious of the policeman's version of events from the outset, as his story contained several "inconsistencies."
"We believed early on that there was something not right about what happened in that encounter...the cell phone video shot by a bystander confirmed our initial suspicions," South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) chief Mark Keel said in a statement.
Slager's police personnel file contains almost nothing to suggest that his bosses considered him a rogue officer capable of murdering a man at a traffic stop. He did, however, have one excessive force complaint from which he was "exonerated."
In the community Slager served, people said that the incident reflects what's wrong with policing today: Police nearly always get the last word when citizens complain.
"We've had through the years numerous similar complaints, and they all seem to be taken lightly and dismissed without any obvious investigation," said Rev. Joseph Darby, vice president of the Charleston branch of the NAACP civil rights group on Thursday.
Nationwide, training that pushes pre-emptive action, military experience that creates a war zone mindset, and a legal system favoring police in misconduct cases all lead to scenarios where officers see the people they serve as enemies, he said.
Both Slager and Scott were US Coast Guard veterans. Despite Slager's excessive force complaint and Scott's short stints in jail for failure to pay child support, neither man had a record of violence.
The officer, whose wife is eight months pregnant, is being held without bond pending an Aug. 21 hearing on the murder charge that could put him in prison for thirty years to life or carry the death penalty.
es/jil (AP, AFP)