A White police officer in North Charleston, SC has been charged with murder in the shooting death of an unarmed Black man.
Walter L. Scott was pulled over by Officer Michael T. Slager for a broken tail light on Saturday, April 4th, 2015. According to Slager’s account of the traffic stop, Scott grabbed his stun gun, leading the officer to say he was in fear for his life. Slater eventually opened fire on Scott, killing him.
On Wednesday, Scott family attorney Chris Stewart joined Roland Martin on NewsOne Now via FaceTime to discuss the shocking and tragic murder.
Stewart told Martin that without the video captured at the scene of the shooting, Slager would not have been charged.
“I don’t believe that we would be where we are right now if it wasn’t for this video, which told the truth and once again just totally contradicted everything that was reported by the officer,” he said.
Slager also reported that he gave Scott CPR, but the video does not show that ever happening. The officer never told Scott to stop running or freeze, either. But what the video does show is Slager picking up an object and dropping it near the body after the shooting.
Video captured at the scene by an unidentified witness contradicts the officer’s report.
In the cell phone footage, the officer fires eight shots at Walter Scott as he runs away. The video also shows the officer drop an object on the ground, which could actually be the stun gun that the officer says Scott took from him. Later in the video, the officer drops an object near Scott’s body.
Steward said, “The video shows him [Officer Michael Slager] picking up the taser and planting it near the body.”
“He legally never should have shot, he never should have continued to work, he had prior complaints about him and then for the officer to take those actions and for the police department itself down here to come forward and publicly regurgitate what he said happened, I think was irresponsible.”
Martin brought up the issue of society automatically accepting a law enforcement officer’s word as being infallible.
Stewart told Martin, “In society today as human beings, we just rush to judgment very quickly. We just want to believe what an authoritative figure says immediately and take it as is, combine that with preconceived notions, biases, and stereotypes.”
“It’s easy just to write this one off without the video tape as another African-American male doing something, attacking a cop, and you will see comments that he got what he deserved, but it wasn’t the truth,” he added. “That’s why stereotypes shouldn’t be believed, preconceived notions are wrong and, in this situation, it highlights it. Which is why this is bigger than just race. This shows what happens when people step forward with evidence when they know what’s right — even risking their own life because they know that injustice is going on.”
The Department of Justice has already gotten involved in the case, which Stewart said usually doesn’t “happen this quick.” He also stated that an independent agency called SLED (South Carolina Law Enforcement Division) is conducting an investigation and the South Carolina Office of the Solicitor is “pushing the case.” Steward did express concerns “with the city and with the police department involved.” He also said a civil suit may be filed.
Stewart explained that he does not want this case to turn into a circus. If Civil Rights leaders, politicians, or activists want to contact the family, they need to reach out to him.
“This is not going to become a circus as long as I’m involved. The family is close-knit, the family relies on myself and my co-council heavily and this won’t become a circus, because a man’s life was lost. This won’t be used as something for publicity or to move a cause or whatever it is — I’m fighting for the family that I was brought here to fight for, period.”
Watch Scott family attorney Chris Stewart and NewsOne Now host Roland Martin discuss the horrific police shooting of Walter L. Scott in the video clip above.