Like many Black Americans, I was filled with anger while watching a graphic video of a white South Carolina police officer shooting an unarmed black man in the back eight times while the man was running away. His crime: A broken taillight.
The officer, Michael T. Slager, 33, a police officer with the North Charleston, South Carolina Police Department, has been fired and charged with murder. Slager said he ‘feared for his life’ and that’s why he shot Walter Scott, 50, dead on April 4.
“He was running for his life,” Walter’s brother, Anthony, told CNN. Slager’s questionable self-defense claim is outrageous because the video tells a totally different story.
“I have watched the video and I was sickened by what I saw,” Eddie Driggers, the North Charleston police chief who fired Slager, told reporters Wednesday. “And I have not watched it since.”
Without the video, I doubt if Slager would be charged with murder. Without the video, we wouldn’t see Slager possibly planting evidence near Scott’s body in a sloppy attempt to cover up the cold-blooded murder. Without the video, we wouldn’t see Slager handcuffing Scott while Scott was face-down and dying even though Slager claims cops administered CPR in an effort to save Scott’s life. Without the video, we wouldn’t see Slager fire eight shots at Scott, pause, and then shoot Scott again. Without the video, Slager could go free.
CNN reports that police officers in South Carolina have never been convicted of shootings involving black citizens – or any citizens.
“It would have never come to light,” Walter Scott Sr., the father of the victim, said on NBC’s “Today” show Wednesday. “They would have swept it under the rug, like they did with many others.”
Black lives – particularly the lives of Black males — don’t matter to some white police officers. Certainly, there are too many white cops who see a Black man and decide to shoot first and claim self-defense later. Where is the humanity among some white police officers who are sworn to serve and protect the community they serve? Where is the compassion for Black citizens in this country? When is the last time a white police officer has shot a white man to death during a confrontation?
I have written far too many of these columns over the years; stories about young Black men whose lives are snuffed out by callous men who are fast on the trigger. I’m exhausted watching press conferences where police stand before the cameras and call for increased sensitivity training for their departments. But I grieve, too, for the families.
The call for justice is more crucial than ever because Black men and women are dying on our streets at an alarming rate and under questionable circumstances. This is a crisis of historic proportions and I’m tired of racial bomb throwers like Rudy Giuliani blaming unarmed Black victims for getting shot to death by police.
“When a Black man is stopped for a broken tail light and ends up being shot multiple times in the back, it is yet another reminder that we need a national strategy to implement real and meaningful police reform now,” Rev. Al Sharpton said in a statement Wednesday. “We simply can’t rely on citizens with video cameras to make sure justice is served.”
The shooting of Scott comes after a series of high-profile shootings by white police officers involving black men in Ferguson, Mo., Cleveland, New York and a separate South Carolina shooting where a Black man was shot by a white cop while the Black man was simply trying to hand the officer his driver’s license.
A White House task force has weighed in on the national debate about white police officers using excessive force during confrontations with Black men. The F.B.I. and the Justice Department are investigating the shooting. According to police reports, Slager stopped Scott, who was driving a Mercedes-Benz with a broken taillight, Scott ran away and Slager chased him and fired his Taser, but Scott kept running, according to police reports.
Moments after the struggle, Officer Slager reported on his radio: “Shots fired and the subject is down. He took my Taser.”
The Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston reported that Scott had been arrested 10 times for not paying child support.
“He has four children; he doesn’t have some type of big violent past or arrest record,” Chris Stewart, a lawyer for Mr. Scott’s family, told The New York Times. “He had a job; he was engaged. He had back child support and didn’t want to go to jail for back child support.”
“All we wanted was the truth,” Anthony Scott, Walter’s brother, told reporters. “I think cops should think twice before firing their weapons….I don’t want to see anyone get shot down the way that my brother got shot down.”
I’ve grown weary of watching the funeral processions for young Black men play out in real time on network television because they were shot to death by white police officers. It upsets me when I hear Black mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers grieving for their slain loved ones while some folks dismiss this crisis as routine occurrences.
Some law enforcement officials will undoubtedly ask why Scott ran from Slager instead of just standing still. Isn’t it possible that Scott actually feared for his life given the number of Black men who have been killed by police recently?
Scott was unarmed, nonviolent, and Slager still shot Scott eight times in the back, killing him within minutes. Now, perhaps, a South Carolina jury may have to decide whether to convict Slager of murder. A murder conviction in the state could lead to the death penalty or up to 30 years to life in prison.
All prospective jurors need to do is watch the video: It appears to be irrefutable evidence.
(Photo: The Associated Press)
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