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South Carolina cop investigated before

April 10, 2015

The South Carolina police officer accused of murdering an unarmed black man last week had allegedly used excessive force two years ago. Police are now reviewing their decision to let him off in the earlier case.

Proteste USA North Charleston
Image: Reuters/Hill

North Charleston Police were planning to review their decision to let off police officer Michael Slager in 2013, when he was accused of using excessive force, police spokesman Spencer Pryor said.

Slager had been charged with murder on Tuesday after he shot and killed an unarmed black man in North Charleston three days ago. The victim, 50-year-old Walter Scott, was ordered to stop over a broken taillight.

A video, filmed by a bystander, shows Scott running away as Slager fires eight rounds at him. Slager said he fired his weapon because Scott took his stun gun and the policeman feared for his life.

Following formal charges and Slager's dismissal from the police, officials are now looking into an older case in which the 33-year-old officer was accused of using a taser against Mario Givens.

Misidentified man to file lawsuit

In an interview with the Associated Press, Givens said he was misidentified as his brother Matthew Givens, who the police was looking for after a girl complained of harassment.

Mario Givens was then awakened early one morning in September 2013 by officer Slager, who ordered Givens to come out.

"Come outside or I'll tase you," Givens recalled the officer as saying, adding that he raised his arms over his head but was hit by the stun gun anyway. The pain from the taser was so intense that Givens fell and called his mother. Slager called his accompanying officer, who dragged Givens outside and threw him on the ground. Givens was then handcuffed and put in the back of a police car.

The complainant repeatedly told the police that they had the wrong man, but said the officers were unwilling to listen. Mario Givens filed a complaint the next day, but no one contacted his family, although public records suggested Slager thought Givens was hiding a weapon.

"If they had just listened to me and investigated what happened that night, this man might be alive today," Givens said of Walter Scott's death. The former victim said at a press conference that he would file a lawsuit against the officer.

Slager, on his part, would be represented by Charleston lawyer Andy Savage, whose previous clients included convicted al Qaeda operative Ali al-Marri. "As we focus in on the facts, we will probably have more to say, but it is far too early for us to be saying what we think," Savage told reporters of his client Michael Slager, who served in the US Coast Guard for six years before joining the police.

mg/rc (AP, Reuters)