South Carolina officials acted swiftly as they charged former officer Michael Slager in the death of Walter Scott, but the murder charges against Slager may only mark the beginning of what could be a string of additional arrests.
Troubling audio and video of the officers’ actions following the fatal shooting are causing officials to consider pressing more charges related to Scott’s death.
Despite claims that the officers did everything they could to save Scott’s life, a Black officer named Clarence Habersham is falling under serious scrutiny for what appears to be a stunning lack of attention or aid offered to Scott. Meanwhile, other officers laughed off the fatal shooting and assured Slager that he wouldn’t be questioned about Scott’s death.
Habersham’s report of the incident claims he “attempted to render aid to the victim by applying pressure to the gunshot wounds,” but many argue that the cell phone video shows Habersham doing no such thing.
While he is seen lifting up Scott’s shirt, it doesn’t appear that he goes any further to render first aid to the man his colleague just fatally shot.
To make matters worse, Slager’s own police dash cam is providing even more evidence as to why the Black community finds it hard to trust police officers.
As an unarmed Black father remains on the ground, officers console Slager with promises that nobody will be asking any serious questions about the shooting for quite some time.
Instead of trying to learn more about the facts, the officers are immediately telling Slager to relax as they share laughs over his adrenalin pumping experience.
“By the time you get home, it’d probably be a good idea to kind of jot down your thoughts of what happened,” one officer is heard saying on the footage.
The officer then adds that it will be easier to think about the situation once his “adrenalin quits pumpin’ and stuff.”
Officers have not confirmed that the other officer is talking to Slager, but a spokesman for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), Thom Berry, said it did seem like it was Slager being addressed on the tape.
Later in the conversation the unidentified officer tells the officer believed to be Slager that he just needs to go home and “relax for two or three” before nonchalantly describing a process that he believed would end in nothing more than a slap on the wrist.
“It’ll be real quick,” the officer continued. “They’re gonna tell you you’re gonna be out for a couple of days and you’ll come back and they’ll interview you then. They’re not going to ask you any kind of questions right now. They’ll take your weapon and we’ll go from there. That’s pretty much it.”
The officer, needless to say, was wrong about this case.
Slager’s claims that Scott took his taser were refuted by the cell phone video, which shows him shooting Scott and then dropping an object, believed to be his taser, near Scott’s body.
Once the video started to circulate the web and captured North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey’s attention, the murder charges followed soon after.
“Rather than duck, the mayor stood up,” Rev. Al Sharpton said on Sunday of the mayor’s swift response to the shooting, according to Reuters. “Maybe now, between a Southern white mayor and a forgiving Black mother, maybe this nation will deal with this.”
He went on to point out that the mayor in the South managed to do what officials in the North and Midwest failed to do—hold an officer accountable for the death of an unarmed Black citizen.
Sharpton is also adding to a growing list of public figures calling for Habersham to be held accountable for his actions.
“If you lie, you go where liars go,” he continued. “It’s not about white cop, Black cop. It’s not about Black and white. It’s about right and wrong.”
The National Bar Association also called for Habersham to be fired on Friday.
It’s a reminder that the push for equality and the fight against police brutality is not divided strictly by racial lines. Abuse or negligence from any officer of any color should be condemned and the officer must be held accountable.
For this very reason, the answer to effective police reform must go deeper than just adding more Black officers to police forces.
As the nation continues to struggle with the growing rift between the Black community and law enforcement, the public united for a final goodbye to yet another Black man who lost his life after crossing paths with the very people who are supposed to serve and protect their communities.
Hundreds of mourners were present on Saturday at Walter Scott’s funeral in Summerville, including prominent politicians from throughout South Carolina.
The flag draped over Scott’s casket reminded the public that the man on the other end of officer Slager’s gun once made his own sacrifices in order to protect the American people as a Coast Guard veteran.
“This is a sad day,” Rev. James Johnson said, according to Reuters.
Johnson is currently the president of the local chapter of the National Action Network.
“God has got a reason for what has happened,” he added. “Hopefully this will heal the world.”
Sharpton was also present at the funeral and questioned, like many others have, what will it “take to see real change”?
It seems the public has only managed to uncover pieces of the bigger puzzle, but an actual solution seems to still be buried along with the countless Black citizens whose killers are free and flaunting police badges.
“Body cameras are a good start,” said Rep. James Clyburn, a U.S. Congressman who attended the funeral, as reported by Reuters. “They’re certainly not a panacea.”