South Carolina police officer pleads guilty in fatal shooting of Walter Scott
Sentencing likely weeks away for Michael Slager; his 1st trial ended in hung jury
A white police officer whose killing of a black motorist running from a traffic stop was captured on cellphone video pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal civil rights charges that could send him to prison for decades.
The plea from Michael Slager, 35, came five months after a jury deadlocked on state murder charges against him in the 2015 slaying of Walter Scott. South Carolina prosecutors had planned to retry Slager, but as part of Tuesday's plea bargain, they agreed to drop the murder case.
Slager admitted violating Scott's civil rights by shooting him without justification. He could get up to life in prison and a $250,000 US fine at sentencing.
A bystander captured Scott's shooting on cellphone video, which was viewed millions of times around the world. The 50-year-old motorist was running from Slager following a traffic stop when the two men struggled over Slager's Taser before the officer shot at Scott eight times, hitting him with five bullets in the back.
The white officer's shooting of an unarmed black man brought fresh scrutiny to the treatment of black men by white officers across the nation.
Deadly force 'was objectively unreasonable'
"The defendant willfully used deadly force even though it was objectively unreasonable under the circumstances," according to the plea agreement obtained by The Associated Press. "The defendant acknowledges that during the time he used deadly force, he knew that the use of deadly force was unnecessary and excessive, and therefore unreasonable under the circumstances."
In March, a federal judge ruled that jurors in Slager's federal trial would be allowed to view the video, over objections by his defence attorneys.
Despite failing to secure a conviction against Slager last year when his murder trial ended in a hung jury, state prosecutors had been planning to retry him later this year.
Prosecutors are proposing a sentence based on federal guidelines for a second-degree murder conviction, which recommend more than 20 years.
That hearing will likely come after federal officials spend several weeks preparing a presentencing report.