South Carolina officer indicted in slaying of Walter Scott

Jun 8, 2015 11:57 AM by CBS/AP

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. - A white former North Charleston police officer has been indicted on a murder charge in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man who was running away from the officer.

The April 4 shooting was captured on video by a bystander and showed officer Michael Slager firing eight times at 50-year-old Walter Scott. The shooting rekindled the ongoing national debate about the treatment of black suspects at the hands of white officers.

Slager was charged and fired from his job almost immediately after the video surfaced. Prosecutor Scarlett Wilson announced the indictment Monday.
"The jury will make up its own mind after it sees the video and hears the other testimony," Wilson said of Slager's trial.

No trial date has been set.

Wilson said earlier the death penalty does not seem to apply because there were no aggravating circumstances such as robbery or kidnapping as required under South Carolina law. In South Carolina, the investigating agency typically presents the case to a grand jury, not the prosecutor.

The 33-year-old Slager faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted.

Slager told authorities that he fired his Taser at Scott as he ran, but the stun gun didn't work. Then during a scuffle over the weapon, Slager said, he shot Scott with his handgun in self-defense. The video appeared to show the men briefly scuffling in a vacant lot, but it also shows Scott clearly running away when the officer starts firing his handgun.

Family members have said Scott may have started running after the traffic stop because he was fearful of returning to jail over about $18,000 he owed in late child-support payments.

As word of the shooting spread, many feared police would close the case without taking any action against the officer. But days later, the video shot by a man walking to work surfaced, and Slager was arrested, easing tensions in the community.

The cellphone video added fuel to the national debate about race and aggressive police tactics that intensified in August with the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. In that case, there was no video of the shooting and Officer Darren Wilson was not indicted.

In Baltimore, six officers were indicted in the death of Freddie Gray, who was critically injured during an arrest there and later died at a hospital.

In South Carolina, prosecutors have sought felony charges against Slager and two other officers in the past year for shooting at unarmed black men following traffic stops. Two of the men were killed, while a third was seriously injured.

None of the cases has gone to trial.

Despite quick action in charging Slager in the shooting death Scott, there are still lingering questions about whether other officers on the scene did everything they could to save Scott's life.

CBS News' Misty Showalter reports Slager has been held without bail in a room with one small window and guards make regular stops by his cell, attorney Andy Savage told Showalter. Slager has no interaction with other detainees, and when he moves anywhere, all the cell blocks in his path are cleared out, according to his lawyer.

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