Officer Michael Slager Fired After Murder Charge; Chief 'Sickened' By Shooting Video

Chief 'Sickened' After Watching Video Of His Officer Shooting Unarmed Man

* Questions remain about killing of black man by white officer

* Shooting filmed by witness and officer charged with murder

* Latest among several high-profile shootings in United States (Adds officials' comments on questions over CPR for victim, object next to body, lawyer quote, reaction)

By Harriet McLeod

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C., April 8 (Reuters) - A white South Carolina police officer has been fired from his job after being charged with murder for shooting an apparently unarmed black man in the back as he fled, but questions remained Wednesday about some details of the killing that was filmed by a witness.

The shooting on Saturday in North Charleston, a town of about 100,000 people, nearly half of whom are black, was the latest death from police use of lethal force in the United States in the past year that has brought protesters out to decry racism and police brutality.

North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers said at a news conference that he did not know whether officers performed CPR on the victim, 50-year-old Walter Scott, who ran away after being stopped by police for a broken brake light on his vehicle.

The video shows a brief scuffle between Scott and police officer Michael Slager, 33, before Scott runs. Slager is then seen taking aim with a handgun before shooting eight times at Scott's back.

Scott was slumped facedown on grass and Slager is seen placing him in handcuffs and then walks back to a spot near where he opened fire. The video then shows him appearing to pick something up, return to Scott, and drop it next to him.

Driggers and North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey did not answer a question about the object.

"There are questions that I have in my mind that I can't answer right now," Driggers said. No other officers have been disciplined, officials said.

According to a police report, Slager told other officers Scott had taken his stun gun from him. At no point in the video, which does not show the initial contact between the men, does Scott appear to be armed.

Summey said that the full video had not been made available to him. He said there is additional footage from a patrol car camera.

The mayor said Slager had been fired from his job but the city would cover insurance for his family until his eight-months-pregnant wife gives birth.

Summey said the city's police force will soon be equipped with body cameras.


Slager was charged on Tuesday with murder in a shooting reminiscent of several police shootings of black men over the past year in cities including New York; Ferguson, Missouri; and Cleveland, Ohio. The shootings have stirred debate across the country about police conduct and race relations, also drawing President Barack Obama into the discussion.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice are investigating Scott's shooting, which has drawn strong reaction from political leaders and on social media.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, along with U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, all Republicans, decried the shooting, with both senators releasing statements calling the video "horrific."

Civil rights leaders called for calm, with many on social media, where #WalterScott was a trending topic, praising the witness who filmed the shooting and gave the video to Scott's family.

Holding signs that read "The whole world is watching" and "Back turned, don't shoot," protesters in North Charleston said Scott's death should not be viewed as an isolated incident.

The shooting was the 11th involving a police officer in South Carolina this year and the second in North Charleston, said Thom Berry, spokesman for the state's law enforcement division. No one was injured in the prior incident in January, he said.

Chris Stewart, an attorney for the Scott family, said they plan to sue. North Charleston could end up paying out a significant amount to Scott's family.

"The municipality is going to be on the hook for seven or eight figures," said Mark Geragos, a criminal defense lawyer. "The last thing they're going to want to do is put this in front of a jury."

Slager, who like Scott is a former member of the Coast Guard, was accused by a man of shooting him with a stun gun without cause in 2013, but was cleared of wrongdoing by an internal investigation. Last year, he was found to have failed to fill out an incident report, records show.

From the AP:

Police Chief Eddie Driggers said he was "sickened" watching video that was taken by an unidentified witness.

Summey did not answer many questions about what happened before the shooting, saying that was part of state law enforcement's investigation. He did say that there is dash-cam video of the traffic stop before the shooting, but he has not seen it and it has not been released to the public.

Summey says the officer's wife is eight months pregnant and the city will cover her insurance until after the baby is born.

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