Justice may be served in South Carolina as a federal grand jury decided to indict a white police officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed Black man.
Former North Charleston police officer Micheal Slager, charged in the shooting death of Walter Scott, was indicted by a grand jury Wednesday morning, according to The State newspaper. Slager is charged with violating federal criminal statutes of obstruction of justice, deprivation of rights under color of law, and use of a weapon during the commission of a crime of violence.
“Today was just an example that if you just keep the faith, even in the darkest times, you’ll see the light,” Chris Stewart, an attorney for the Scott family, said following news of the indictment. “But this is just step one.”
In its obstruction of justice charge, the U.S. Attorney’s office in South Carolina accuses Slager of intentionally obstructing State Law Enforcement Division agents in their investigation in the days following the shooting, The State reports. The indictment explicitly states that the former police officer “knowingly misled SLED investigators by falsely stating that he (Slager) fired his weapon at Scott while Scott was coming forward at him with a Taser.”
The shooting, which was captured by a bystander’s cell phone, put a spotlight on concerns raised by the African-American community involving excessive force by police and sparked discussions about the treatment of Blacks by white officers.
The video shows Slager, 34, firing eight shots at Scott, 50, who was running away from the April 2015 traffic stop, according to CBS News. Slager was then indicted on murder charges in state court and terminated from the police force. CBS News also reports that Slager was placed in solitary confinement until January, released on $500,000 bond, and put under house arrest at an unknown location. He’s scheduled to go on trial in state court Oct. 31 and will attend a court hearing Wednesday afternoon in Charleston, according to The State.
Per CNN.com, Slager could face life in prison if he’s convicted.
On April 4, Slager pulled Scott over for a reported broken tail light, CNN.com reports. Dash cam video from the traffic stop captures the two men talking and then Scott fleeing his car, after which the former police officer chases him.
According to the news site, the men ran out of the dash cam’s view, but the bystander’s cell phone video captured the fatal incident. The video displays a brief tussle between Slager and Scott, after which Scott gets up and continues to run from the officer. It was then that Slager raised his gun and fired eight shots at the 50-year-old man, hitting him in the back. Scott died at the scene, according to CNN.com
CBS News reports that North Charleston awarded Scott’s family a $6.5 million civil settlement last fall. The settlement gives a total of $1 million in annuities to three out of four of his children, according to court documents obtained by Charleston’s Post and Courier.
Scott’s estate will receive $3 million, $2.4 million will be split among the firms that represented the Scott family, and $17,000 will be set aside to pay the child support Scott owed, CBS News reports.