(NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C.) — The relatives of an unarmed South Carolina man who was shot in the back and killed by a police officer said they are devastated by the tragedy — and hope that justice and healing can emerge.
North Charleston officer Michael Slager was charged in the Saturday morning shooting death of Walter “Lamar” Scott, 50, which was captured on video by an unidentified witness. A magistrate denied Slager bond at a hearing Tuesday evening and he was being held at the Charleston County Detention Center.
Judy Scott, the victim’s mother, said her son was a caring person, someone who still called her “Mommy” in adulthood and was raised in the church.
“When I looked at that tape, that was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen. I am very, very upset concerning it. I almost couldn’t look at it. To see my son running, defenselessly being shot, it just tore my heart to pieces,” she said on Good Morning America Wednesday.
Judy Scott said her faith has sustained her during her time of mourning.
“I feel sad for the officer who did the shooting, because he’s gonna have to give account for that. And I pray that he would repent to the Lord for what has happened, and we cannot move and act so quickly, we have to think before we take action and remember that we all have…that’s my son. And I’ve lost a son that will never come back. We have his memories, but he will never come back. And I pray that this never happens to anybody else,” she said.
The victim’s brother Anthony Scott said the murder charge was a positive development, but ultimately comes with mixed emotions.
“It is unusual right now, but I feel like we have a little bit more of the process to do. A charge is not being convicted,” Anthony Scott said. “Once a conviction is put in place, I’ll feel a whole lot better.”
Scott had four children. The family says it will file a civil suit.
Police cited witness video that appears to show the moment when the officer fatally shot Scott. That video was shared with ABC News after a witness came forward to Chris Stewart, Walter Scott’s family attorney. Stewart believes the video could prove that the officer used excessive force.
The two video clips that Scott family attorney Chris Stewart said were recorded by a bystander, whose name has not been released, appear to show the moments when Scott begins to run away from the officer. While the officer’s stun gun is not visible in the video, what appears to be a string is visible stretching from Scott to Officer Slager, where it was apparently attaching the stun gun to his clothing. Scott is seen running away from Slager as the officer proceeds to fire eight successive shots in Scott’s direction before Scott falls to the ground.
“I can tell you that as a result of that video and the bad decision made by our officer he will be charged with murder and that’s not something that we like to hear,” Mayor R. Keith Summey said at a news conference.
“The video is very demonstrative of exactly what happened,” Summey said. “Without the video, and that was the only witness there was, it would be difficult to ascertain directly what did occur. We want to thank the young person who came forward with the video because it helped us to resolve exactly what did occur.”
The police incident report states that Slager called in a traffic stop in the area and then advised officers that he was in a foot pursuit of the driver of the vehicle.
Slager then said he had deployed his Taser and requested backup units to the scene, according to the police report. During his next call on the police radio, Slager said: “Shots fired and the subject is down, he took my Taser,” the police report notes.
“This is a very tragic event for all of the families,” Slager’s then-attorney David Aylor said Sunday in a statement released to ABC News affiliate WCIV-TV in Charleston. “Officer Slager believes he followed all the proper procedures and policies of the North Charleston Police Department.”
Slager has a new attorney whose name was not immediately available. He may return to court as early as today to seek bond from a circuit court judge.
Summey said that they were made aware of the video earlier Tuesday and Slager was arrested after meeting with investigators.
“It goes to say how we work as a community,” Summey said of the decision to charge the officer. “If you’re wrong, you’re wrong and if you make a bad decision don’t matter if you’re behind the shield…you have to live by that decision.”
At a Tuesday evening news conference, Stewart, the Scott family’s attorney, said the family is planning to file a civil suit against North Charleston. He declined to speculate on whether the shooting was racially motivated, but said that “this was a cop who decided he could shoot a man in the back that many times.”
In a statement, Gov. Nikki Haley said, “We have many good law enforcement officers in the field. What happened in this case is not acceptable in South Carolina, nor is it reflective of our values or of the way most of our law enforcement officials act, and I assure all South Carolinians that the criminal judicial process will proceed fully. This is a sad time for everyone in South Carolina, and I urge everyone to work together to help our community heal.”
A murder conviction in the state could lead to the death penalty or up to 30 years to life in prison, according to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
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