Shooting has torn my heart out, says mother
Published 09/04/2015 | 02:30
Sombre protests were held last night in the tinderbox atmosphere of South Carolina, after a white police officer was charged with the murder of an unarmed black motorist.
What should have been a routine traffic stop ended in a death that was captured on a chilling mobile phone video which has shocked the world and sent a shudder through Washington and the rest of the United States.
The decision to charge Michael Slager came after police studied the stark video of the incident in which Walter Scott, a father of four, was shot eight times seemingly running away.
The FBI and US Justice Department are investigating the shooting, which is just the latest in a series of incidents that have raised questions about US policing and race relations.
Yesterday, Scott's shocked parents appeared separately on TV shows.
Walter Scott Sr said that his son may have run because he owed child support, which can lead to jail time in South Carolina.
He said that in the video, the officer "looked like he was trying to kill a deer running through the woods". While his mother, Judy, called the video "the most horrible thing I've ever seen".
"I almost couldn't look at it, to see my son running defencelessly, being shot. It just tore my heart to pieces," she said, on ABC's 'Good Morning America'.
Lawyers for the family said the man who shot the video is assisting investigators. He has not been identified.
L Chris Stewart, a lawyer for Scott's family, said the video forced authorities to act quickly and decisively. "What if there was no video? What if there was no witness, or hero, as I call him, to come forward?" asked Stewart.
Civil rights leaders have called for calm, and many people praised the courage of the witness who filmed the killing and gave the video to the family of victim Walter Scott.
Lawyers acting for Mr Slager (33), have claimed that he feared for his life after Mr Scott took his stun gun during a scuffle.
However, in the footage it appears that Mr Scott was shot eight times in the back as he fled. The officer is then seen to approach Mr Scott who, by then is lying on the ground, and handcuffs him.
After that he walks back to the spot from which he first opened fire before returning and dropping an object next to Mr Scott.
The victim's family plans to file a lawsuit against Mr Slager, the department and the city alleging that his civil rights were violated, Mr Stewart said.
Meanwhile, the person who filmed the video is speaking with investigators and will come forward publicly "at some point".
With the graphic footage, taken by a passer-by, gaining a huge following on social media, the incident is likely to reignite tensions caused by the latest in a series of high-profile incidents in which unarmed black Americans have been killed by white police officers over the past 12 months.
The controversial shooting of Michael Brown, a black teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri, last August, led to days of violence in the largely black suburb of St Louis. Other incidents included the death of Eric Garner, who died after being restrained by a police officer in Staten Island, New York, using an outlawed choke hold.
The decision not to charge the officer responsible triggered outrage and another wave of protests. There has been mounting concern at the state of relations between the African-American community and police forces in a number of cities. It led to the White House setting up a task force to look at the issue with Eric Holder, the US Attorney General, being sent to cities across the country to try and defuse the crisis.
As in Ferguson, black Americans appear to be under-represented in the local police force in North Charleston, the third largest city in the state.
Blacks account for 47pc of residents, but only 20pc of the local force.
The decision to press charges against Officer Slager was announced by Keith Summey, North Charleston's mayor.
"When you're wrong, you're wrong," he said at a hastily arranged news conference. "And if you make a bad decision, don't care if you're behind the shield or just a citizen on the street, you have to live by that decision."
At the news conference, Chief Eddie Driggers, North Charleston's police chief, confirmed the suspect was shot as he was running away.
"I have been around this police department a long time and all the officers on this force, the men and women, are like my children," he said.
(© Daily Telegraph, London)