A former police officer is accused of using excessive force when he shot a black man dead for fleeing a traffic stop in South Carolina. He has also been charged with a civil rights offense that could cost him life in prison.
Michael Slager, 34 used excessive force and was said to have no legal justification when he fired eight times at Walter Scott’s back on April 4, 2015. These were the findings of a grand jury. Slager was also charged with using a gun while committing the civil rights offense and obstructing justice. He was said to have mislead authorities as to what happened at the time of the shooting. This comes after he was charged with murder in a state court as well.
This shooting was one that drew national attention to police brutality and excessive use of force against minorities. “What happened today is that the federal government said it stops now,” Scott family lawyer Chris Stewart said outside the Charleston court house.
Associate professor of criminal justice at Bowling Green State University in Ohio states that it is extremely rare for law enforcement to be charged with criminal deprivation of civil rights in federal court.
Research shows that only 1.7 percent of officers arrested from 2005 to 2011 for the same crimes were charged this way. Slager’s attorneys feel like he is carrying the punishment of many before him and the court’s ruling is extreme.
It is sad when police officers misuse their badge and create a hostile environment for the public. This is a clear case of police brutality and clearly excessive force was used. Many other options were available to the officer to deescalate the situation before taking the man’s life, says Joe Sandefur, managing partner at a top rated personal injury firm joeandmartin.com in South Carolina.
The victim’s family gives the bystanders cell phone video credit for providing assistance to the prosecution. The real story was told. You can plainly see on the video that Slager fired at Scotts back after he tried to flee from a traffic stop. He was originally pulled over for a broken tail light.
Slager mislead authorities by saying the victim came at him with a Taser causing him to fire his weapon at Scott. Slager still says he is innocent, but was immediately fired from the North Charleston force after the incident. His trial is set for some time in October.
“From the beginning, we didn’t believe the story,” Anthony Scott, the deceased man’s brother, told reporters. “If there wasn’t a video, would we be here today?”
Sadly, cases like this are becoming all too common in our world. Police as a general rule are great, upstanding law abiding citizens who protect us at our greatest time of need. Occasionally you will find a rush to judgement and a bad decision that cost someone their life. In this case it was compounded with the officer lying about the actual events.