Sunday 17 November 2019

I feared for my life after death video, says witness

Officer Michael Slager stands over Walter Scott. Photo: AP
Officer Michael Slager stands over Walter Scott. Photo: AP

Philip Sherwell in New York

The bystander who filmed a white police officer shooting a fleeing black man in the back considered deleting the mobile phone video as he was scared for his life because of what he had seen.

Michael Slager, a South Carolina policeman, was charged with the murder of Walter Scott after the video surfaced, contradicting the officer's claims that he fired in self-defence.

Feiden Santana has now come forward to reveal that he was the witness who captured the fatal encounter on video as he was walking to work in North Charleston on Saturday morning. But he initially thought about erasing the recording because he knew that Mr Slager had seen him filming the incident and he realised the "magnitude" of the video.

"I felt that my life with this information might be in some danger," he told NBC News. "I thought about erasing the video and getting out of the community, leaving North Charleston."

The Dominican immigrant took the decision to hand the video to the dead man's family after he heard reports in the media that Mr Slager claimed that he opened fire after Mr Scott had grabbed his Taser stun gun.

Mr Santana said that he started to film the confrontation after he saw the two men "struggling" on the ground in a small park, with Mr Scott attempting to escape the stun gun discharged by the officer. "They were down on the floor before I started recording," he said. "I remember the policeman had control of the situation, he had control of Scott and Scott was trying to get away from the Taser. He never used the Taser against the cop."

In the video footage, Mr Slager (33) can be seen taking aim and firing eight times as Mr Scott (50) ran away before crumpling to the ground. The officer then picked up an item, thought to be the discarded stun gun, and placed it next to Mr Scott's body in a suspected attempt to frame him.

Mr Slager was charged with murder a few hours after Mr Santana's footage was made public. Asked about the prospect that his video evidence could help send Mr Slager to death row, he said he could not "feel happy about it", but the officer "made a bad decision, and you pay for your decisions in this life". Mr Scott's family have said that they believe that Mr Slager might not have been charged with murder if Mr Santana had not been passing and filmed the video.

The incident has prompted renewed calls for all US police officers to be equipped with body cameras to record their actions.

Keith Summey, the North Charleston mayor, said that he has ordered 150 body cameras for his officers. The city's quick action to charge Mr Slager and order the cameras has helped ease some local tensions. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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