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'Throwback to the 19th century'

April 9, 2015

A US police officer charged with killing African-American Walter Scott has been fired. Congressman James Clyburn suggests police-sanctioned killing may be part of a trend signifying a regression into antiquated laws.

USA Polizist erschießt Mann Videostill
Image: Reuters

South Carolina's administration on Wednesday fired police officer Michael Slager, accused with murdering an unarmed man by shooting him in the back.

The shooting, which happened on Saturday night, was recorded by a witness when it happened in North Charleston in South Carolina. The film showed Slager having a small scuffle with the victim before the unarmed man fled. Slager then used his gun to fire eight times on the victim, Walter Scott's back. The 33-year-old Slager was arrested on Tuesday after the video was made public.

"These incidents have been happening…It just so happens, in this incident, you get to see it," South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn told DW, adding that the shock regarding this shooting was because people could see for themselves how the situation developed.

Protests in North Charleston
Protests in North CharlestonImage: Reuters/Hill

Walter Scott's case like other events in a series of deadly police encounters, in which black men were killed, stirred nationwide protests in the US and raised questions on police brutality. The killing is the 11th police-related shooting in the state.

"I think we will have to figure out what is causing it," argued Clyburn on the reason as to why shootings were on the rise. "There's a climate that's being created in this country that is a throwback to the 19th century… When you see state legislatures denying the right to vote…giving out licenses for people to go out and be vigilantes…It's creating a climate that allows people like rural police officers to go out and do what they feel like doing and think there will be no consequences to be faced."

Demand for scrutiny

Meanwhile, civil rights leaders in the US called for calm, after protestors gathered outside North Charleston's city hall and demanded that Walter Scott's case be seen in the context of other similar killings.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said a State Law Enforcement Division was looking into the crime.

"This has been a horrible tragedy within our community," Summey said, adding that the state was acquiring 250 wearable cameras for police officers to ensure the police were accountable for their actions.

"We turned the investigation over to an independent agency that does not work for the mayor and does not work for the police chief," Summey told reporters.

However there were still questions about the three-minute-long video's authenticity, concerning whether the video was edited and how the film found its way to the media and the local authorities.

mg/rc (AP, Reuters, dpa)