South Carolina grand jury affirms murder charge in Walter Scott shooting
Police officer Michael Slager accused of shooting unarmed black man, has been in jail since arrest in April
A grand jury on Monday affirmed the state of South Carolina's murder charge against a white former police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man trying to run from a traffic stop.
The shooting April 4 was captured on video by a bystander, showing North Charleston officer Michael Slager firing eight times as 50-year-old Walter Scott ran away, inflaming a national debate about how black people are treated by white police officers.
Slager was charged with murder by state law enforcement agents and fired immediately after the video surfaced.
Prosecutor Scarlett Wilson announced the indictment, which represents at least the fourth time in less than six months that a grand jury in South Carolina has agreed that white officers should stand trial in the shootings of black men. No trial date has been set.
Walter Scott's brother, Rodney Scott, said the family is "very happy and pleased" with the indictment.
Civil suit likely
The 33-year-old Slager, who has been jailed since his arrest, faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted. Wilson said the death penalty does not seem to apply because there were no aggravating circumstances such as robbery or kidnapping as required under state law.
Chris Stewart, a lawyer for Scott's family, said after the indictment that they plan to file a wrongful death suit against North Charleston and its police force.
"Today was just an example of if you keep the faith, even in the darkest times, you will see the light," he said. "We are going to patiently wait for the criminal trial in this case, and we are going to patiently wait to see if the city, the police department and the chief are going to take responsibility in the civil suit."
Video contradicted officer's statement
Slager told authorities he initially tried to stun Scott with his Taser, but it didn't work, and that as both men scuffled over the stun gun, he fired his handgun at Scott in self-defense. The video shows the men briefly scuffling over what appears to be a Taser before Scott runs away and the officer begins firing at Scott's back.
Another video, from the officer's dashboard camera, shows Scott bolting from his car after Slager pulled him over and checked his identification. Slager then chased him down.
Family members have speculated that Scott may have tried to flee because he was fearful of returning to jail over about $18,000 he owed in late child-support payments.
As word of the shooting spread in South Carolina, many feared police would close the case without taking any action. Days later, Scott's family publicized the bystander's video, and his death instantly became international news.
The cellphone video added fuel to the national debate about race and aggressive police tactics, which intensified in August with the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Officer Darren Wilson was not indicted.