South Carolina prosecutors charged a police officer with murder on Tuesday, after video surfaced showing him shooting a fleeing, apparently unarmed man in the back multiple times, after a traffic stop.
The arrest of the North Charleston officer, Michael Slager, comes after a series of high-profile deaths of black Americans at the hands of police officers last year prompted a national debate over policing, racism, and the use of deadly force. Last month, President Obama outlined proposals for police reform based on a task force report commissioned after incidents in Ferguson, Missouri and New York. Slager, the 33-year-old police officer, is white; Walter Scott, the 50-year-old victim, was black.
According to local reports, Slager pulled over Scott for a broken tail light on his vehicle on Saturday afternoon. A police spokesman originally told media that Scott had taken the Taser from Slager and attempted to wield it against the officer, at which point Slager drew his weapon and shot Scott.
A video posted online by The New York Times, taken by a bystander on a cell phone, depicts a different scene. It shows Scott and Slager interacting in close proximity to one another in an open, grassy area. Scott then turns and begins to run away from the officer. As Scott flees, Slager pulls his gun from its holster and fires eight shots at Scott, who crumples to the ground near a tree. Slager walks toward him, speaking into his radio, tells an unresponsive Scott to put his hands behind his back, and then places him in handcuffs. No attempt to render first aid is depicted in the Times video until other officers arrive on the scene. Scott subsequently died of his injuries.