There are isolated cases of police brutality. A charge of brutality (excessive force under the
color of authority) is easier to prove criminal intent on the part of the officer, as opposed to
situations when an officer overreacts. Granted, the consequences of police overreacting can be just as serious as brutality (or worse), but establishing criminal intent is far more difficult. The April 7, 2015 shooting of Walter Scott by North Charleston, South Carolina police officer Michael Slager is an example of an officer overreacting to what is unfolding in front of him. It deserves prosecution for manslaughter and decertification as a peace officer.
Why manslaughter and not first degree murder? Let’s break it down:
- Scott’s first illegal action (fleeing from a traffic stop) dictated that Officer Slager give chase.
- Scott’s second illegal (and violent) act was committed on Officer Slager as he attempted to disarm him of his Taser.
Despite Scott’s blatant unlawful and escalating criminal conduct ― deadly force was the wrong force option. Prosecution of the officer is warranted. Scott was no longer a threat to officer Slager when he was shot. Nor was Scott a violent fleeing felon whose escape presented an imminent danger to the community.
As a firearms trainer I find Slager’s overreaction to Scott’s criminal conduct disturbing to watch and tragic. At the same time I understand the emotions and psychology of foot pursuits and close quarter hand-to-hand combat. As ugly as the videos are to watch there are mitigating factors and nothing that happened retroactively validates the allegations in the media and by the White House of a systemic racist, criminal (white) police culture. Race was not a factor in the shooting; behavior was.
Scott’s criminal conduct set in motion what followed. Although he had significant culpability for the outcome; Officer Slager had more. Officer Slager’s defense will be manslaughter, not murder. A jury will be challenged to suspend the conditioning of the media spin in recent police use of force controversies and look at this one in a vacuum weighing the totality of circumstances.
Information upload by the youtube account posting this video: “The anonymous eyewitness who filmed this fatal shooting of Walter Scott in South Carolina last weekend has been identified as Feidin Santana an immigrant from the Dominican Republic. ( You can watch the full interview with him HERE). Feidin Santana is being called a hero. He said he was scared to come forward, but felt he had to do the right thing. You are a brave man Mr. Santana and thanks for your courage.
Update: Dash Cam Video was just released by the S.C. Police.
The white police officer, Michael T. Slager, in North Charleston, S.C., was charged with murder on Tuesday after a video surfaced showing him shooting and killing an apparently unarmed black man, Walter Scott, in the back while he ran away. The Officer also appears to be planting a gun next to the body.
The officer had said he feared for his life because the man took his stun gun in a scuffle after a traffic stop but the video shows the officer firing eight times as the man fled.
The shooting in North Charleston comes on the heels of high-profile incidents of police officers using lethal force in New York, Cleveland, Ferguson, and around the country. The deaths have sparked a national debate over whether police are too quick to use force, particularly in cases involving black men. Walter Scott was pulled over for a broken tail light on his car. This is murder”