Several 2016 White House contenders, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), on Wednesday commented on the South Carolina shooting death of an unarmed black man at the hands of a white police officer.
Cell phone video taken by a bystander on Saturday shows 50-year-old Walter Scott running away as North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager, 33, fires eight shots at his back. Slager has since been fired and charged with murder.
In an interview with CNN that was coincidentally conducted from North Charleston -- the city where he is scheduled to campaign on Thursday -- Paul, who announced his Republican presidential candidacy this week, calibrated his remarks carefully.
“First, I would like to say it’s just a terrible tragedy, and I hope justice does occur,” Paul said. “But I do think that sometimes -- the way we report news -- we tend to report the news of crime, and so we see a lot of crime, and we think it’s representative of the whole. And I think when you look at police across our country, 98, 99 percent of them of them are doing their job on a day-to-day basis and aren’t doing things like this.”
In plotting his White House run, Paul has actively courted minority communities and has co-sponsored a bill in the Senate asking for statistics related to white police officers unjustly killing African-Americans.
But he said in the interview that these kinds of tragedies shouldn’t serve as an indictment on the behavior of police officers around the country.
“I hope we don’t paint it with such a broad brush that we draw conclusions that may not be accurate,” Paul said.
In an interview with BuzzFeed on Wednesday, former neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson condemned the killing as an “execution.”
“Probably, like most reasonable people, you’re aghast,” Carson, a possible Republican presidential candidate, told BuzzFeed. “It’s horrible to see an execution take place in the street like that.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) -- who also is considering a 2016 White House run, but is not yet an official candidate -- called the video “horrific.”
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Walter Scott," Graham said in a statement. "The horrific video is very difficult to watch and deeply troubling on many fronts."
On the Democratic side, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley took to social media to issue a pair of tweets in which he said that it “shouldn’t take a video to ensure justice.”
On Wednesday night, Hillary Clinton also tweeted her condolences and said, "We can do better - rebuild trust, reform justice system, respect all lives."
President Barack Obama has not publicly commented on the killing.