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North Charleston police shooting: Cop charged with murder, protesters call for justice

Posted at 3:11 PM, Apr 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-08 15:11:11-04

New developments:

• 1:27 p.m.: At a news conference at North Charleston City Hall about the shooting of Walter Scott, Mayor Keith Summey told reporters Wednesday that the city has ordered an additional 150 body cameras "so every officer on the street" in the city will have one. That is in addition to 101 body cameras already ordered, he said.

• 1:25 p.m.: "The mayor's got to go!" people chanted after Summey ended a news conference about the shooting of Scott by Officer Michael Slager.

• 1:16 p.m.: Asked whether CPR was performed on Scott after Slager shot him, North Charleston police Chief Eddie Driggers told reporters Wednesday: "I have watched the video and I was sickened by what I saw. And I have not watched it since, but ... in the end of it, what I saw was (what I) believed to be a police officer removing the shirt of the individual and performing some type of life-saving (procedure), but I'm not sure what took place there."


• 1:14 p.m.: Protesters repeatedly interrupted Summey and Driggers at the news conference. The mayor threatened to shut down the conference, but it continued. "No justice! No peace," people briefly chanted.

• 1:12 p.m.: Slager's wife is eight months pregnant, and the city will continue paying for her medical insurance until the baby is born, Summey said. The officer was "terminated," he added. Continuing insurance for the infant is "the humane thing for us to do," the mayor said.

• 1:09 p.m.: Summey said he and Driggers visited the Scott family. "They're suffering," Summey said. "We let them know how we felt about their loss and how bad it was," he added. "We do not condone wrong; it doesn't matter who it is." He asked that people "please pray for this family and the time that they're going through."

• 12:55 p.m.: Just before a news conference was set to begin, protesters walked in. They were led by a man wearing a "Black Lives Matter" T-shirt who shouted, "This is what democracy looks like!"

• Noon: Slager will remain in custody unless a circuit court sets his bond, a court spokesman told CNN. The court has not set a date for that hearing.

• 11:33 a.m.: The police chief of North Charleston, a chaplain and the mayor of North Charleston are visiting Scott's family at their home.

• 10:53 a.m.: A CNN examination of Slager's police job application indicates he has been an employee of the North Charleston Police Department for about five years and five months.

• 10:40 a.m.: One of about 45 protesters at North Charleston City Hall speaks into a microphone:

"This is our opportunity to speak out and let everyone know what's going on in North Charleston!"

[Original story, published at 10:53 a.m. ET]

Demonstrators flocked to North Charleston City Hall in South Carolina on Wednesday to protest the shooting death of an African-American man by a police officer.

A video shows Officer Michael Slager, who is white, shooting 50-year-old Walter Scott eight times as Scott has his back to him and is running away. It appears that Scott was unarmed.

Slager is charged with murder, the FBI is investigating, and once again a police-involved shooting has sparked national outrage.

Though it's unknown if race was a factor, protesters are wearing T-shirts that say "Black Lives Matter" and chanting the phrase that became popular after several police-involved killings of black men around the country.

"No justice, no peace!" demonstrators also shouted.

Scott's shooting stirred memories of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager killed by a white police officer. But not everyone agreed that Scott's case is like Brown's or that race was a factor.

"We can't get into the brain of another individual, so we can't state that," Scott family attorney Chris Stewart said. "I think it would be irresponsible to say that and try and inflame a community or anything of that nature."

An autopsy of Scott showed that he "sustained multiple gunshot wounds to the back of his body," and his death was the result of a homicide, the Charleston County Coroner's Office said. The autopsy results were discussed with the Scott family, a release stated.

The North Charleston Police department was not legally obligated to but chose to hand the case over to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, according to a press release from Scarlett A. Wilson, the Ninth Judicial Circuit Solicitor.

Though the prosecutor said she is subject to rules that limit what she can say publicly, she stated: "My role is to hold accountable those who harm others unlawfully, regardless of profession. This office does not dictate nor comment upon police policy, training and procedure. I am, however, deeply concerned when those who are sworn to serve and protect violate the public's trust."


Use of stun gun questioned

Slager pulled Scott over on Saturday morning for a broken taillight, authorities have said.

The officer initially said that he used a Taser stun gun on Scott and that Scott tried to take his weapon.

But the video seems to show something else entirely.

When Scott's brother Anthony Scott saw the video, he was convinced the officer had lied, he told CNN.

"There was not a struggle for the Taser," Anthony Scott said. "I didn't believe my brother would have done that anyway."

To Anthony Scott, the videotape shows his brother was "running for his life" away from the officer to avoid being Tasered further.

"I think my brother was thinking he was not going to be shot, no one would have thought that," Scott said.

The video shows Walter Scott attempting to run away. His back is to the officer, and he is a few yards away when the officer raises his gun and fires.

A man walking to work on Saturday recorded the video and provided it to the family, Anthony Scott said.

If convicted of murder, Slager could face life in prison or the death penalty.


Outrage on social media

"People are upset, people are pointing out how wrong the officer was for gunning down Mr. Scott," South Carolina State Rep. Justin Bamberg said as he stood alongside Anthony Scott on Wednesday.

#WalterScott received 11,000 mentions on Twitter in just one hour Wednesday; 243,000 mentions in 24 hours. #RIPWalterScott is also trending, as is #MichaelSlager.

Bamberg said he hasn't heard of anyone acting out violently to protest the shooting.

He and Scott stressed they don't want that to happen.


"Things are in play now, and this officer is in the process of being prosecuted," Bamberg said, imploring anyone listening to him speak on CNN: "We ask that you let the justice process run its course."

Slager said that he used his Taser stun gun and that Scott took his Taser, according to police reports.

"Shots fired and the subject is down," Slager said, according to reports. "He took my Taser."

Before the officer started firing his gun, a dark object falls behind him and hits the ground. It's not clear whether that is the Taser.

Later in the video, when the officer approaches Scott's body, he drops a dark object next to the man. It's not clear whether that is the Taser.

It's unknown whether Scott took the officer's Taser, or whether the officer picked the object up and moved it closer to the body.

"The officer said that Walter ran from the vehicle during the traffic stop," Stewart, the Scott family attorney, said earlier Wednesday.

The beginning of the video shows two men standing close to each other.

Any words exchanged between Scott and Slager are not audible on the released tape. It's also unclear what happened before Scott started to run away, or why he ran.

Regardless, "running from an officer doesn't result in the death penalty," the attorney said.


Just after the shooting

Immediately after Scott was shot, according to the video, someone yells, "Put your hands behind your back!"

Scott, now motionless and face-down on the ground, is handcuffed.

It's unclear why, according to the footage, Slager and another officer who arrive appear to not give first aid to Scott while waiting for an ambulance.

The reaction

On Tuesday, after viewing the video, Summey said, "When you're wrong, you're wrong. And if you make a bad decision -- don't care if you're behind the shield or just a citizen on the street -- you have to live by that decision."

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina called the shooting "absolutely unnecessary and avoidable."

It's unclear how Slager plans to defend himself.

According to CNN affiliate WCIV, Slager initially said through his attorney, David Aylor, that he followed the appropriate policies and procedures.

But Aylor later told CNN that he no longer represents the officer. It's not clear whether Slager has found a new attorney.

At the direction of the Coroner's Office, an autopsy was performed on Scott on Sunday. It revealed that he suffered multiple gunshot wounds to his back, and the manner of his death was ruled "Homicide."

The investigation

The Justice Department said it would "take appropriate action in light of the evidence and developments in the state case."

"The South Carolina Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened an investigation concurrent with the S.C. Law Enforcement Division and are providing aid as necessary to the state investigation," the Justice Department said in a statement.

"The Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the South Carolina U.S. Attorney's Office will work with the FBI in the investigation."

Whether Scott's civil rights were violated will be part of the Justice Department's investigation.

In the meantime, Slager remains behind bars. He was denied bail at a bond hearing Tuesday night, WCIV reported.

Instead of wearing his police uniform, Slager now wears a jail uniform.