A North Charleston police officer was forced to use his service weapon Saturday during a scuffle with a suspect who tried to overpower him and seize the officer's Taser, authorities said.
The man, who has a history of violence and a long arrest record, died on the scene as a result of the encounter, despite officers performing CPR and delivering first aid, according to police reports.
The shooting was the 11th this year by a South Carolina police officer. The State Law Enforcement Division has begun an investigation into the incident.
Police identified the officer involved as Patrolman 1st Class Michael Thomas Slager and the suspect as Walter Lamar Scott, 50, of Meadowlawn Drive in West Ashley. Slager, 33, served honorably in the military before joining the North Charleston Police Department more than five years ago. He has never been disciplined during his time on the force, his attorney said.
The incident occurred behind a pawn shop on Craig Street and Remount Road. Slager initially pulled Scott over for a broken taillight. During the stop, police and witnesses say Scott fled the vehicle on foot. When Slager caught up with him a short distance from the street, Scott reportedly attempted to overpower Slager. Police say that during the struggle, the man gained control of the Taser and attempted to use it against the officer.
It was during that scuffle that the officer fired his service weapon, fatally wounding Scott.
“Shots fired, and the subject is down. He took my Taser," Slager radioed immediately following the shooting.
Slager “felt threatened and reached for his department-issued firearm and fired his weapon,” his attorney said in a statement on Sunday. “I believe once the community hears all the facts of this shooting, they’ll have a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding this investigation.”
Slager's attorney maintained that the officer believed he properly followed all procedures and policies before resorting to deadly force.
“This is part of the job that no one likes and wishes would never happen,” Police Chief Eddie Driggers said, according to a release. “This type of situation is unfortunate and difficult for everyone. We are confident that SLED will conduct a complete and thorough investigation into the incident and provide their findings to all concerned.”
A previous accusation that Slager assaulted a burglary victim was found to be without merit. In that case, it was determined that the officer had been within his rights to use force to defend himself after a man tried to overpower him.
Scott had a lengthy rap sheet extending back to at least 1987, when he was arrested on a charge of assault and battery. In 1991, he was convicted of possession of a bludgeon. He also had a history of arrests related to contempt of court charges for failing to pay child support, and in 2008 was convicted of driving under suspension and having an open alcohol container in his car.
Samuel Scott, a 55-year-old man who identified himself as Scott’s cousin, said he was shocked by the news.
“He wasn’t no criminal. He wasn’t young and in the streets. He was a grown man working hard to take care of his family,” he told the Charleston Post and Courier of his cousin. “He’s not a violent guy -- never seen him argue with anybody. I just can’t see it.”
Saturday's encounter bears similarities to the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which kicked off a national conversation about the use of force by police. Authorities there ultimately determined that Brown had attempted to overpower Officer Darren Wilson and run before turning back and charging the officer, who was forced to deploy his service weapon in the encounter.
Slager was placed on administrative duty, pending the outcome of the state investigation.
This article relies entirely on local news reports, which sourced their version of events to information from police, the attorney for the officer, "witnesses" and police statements. Many of those claims turned out to be lies. Slager has been charged with murder. Whenever possible, this article pulls verbatim from local news reports.
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