White officer won’t face death penalty in South Carolina murder: prosecutor

Posted: April 14, 2015 in News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – A white South Carolina patrolman charged with murder for shooting a black man in the back as he fled after a traffic stop will not face the death penalty if convicted, a prosecutor said on Monday.

None of the circumstances that allow lethal punishment apply in the April 4 shooting of 50-year-old Walter Scott by North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, said Scarlett Wilson, Charleston County’s chief prosecutor.

“Based on the facts revealed thus far, it does not appear South Carolina’s death penalty provision applies in this case because there are no statutory ‘aggravating circumstances’ present,” Wilson said in a statement.

Such factors include murders committed during a kidnapping, robbery, drug trafficking, or with poison or physical torture.

Scott’s death reignited a public outcry over police treatment of black Americans that flared last year after the killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, and elsewhere.

North Charleston fired Slager last week after he was charged with murder in Scott’s death. A cellphone video emerged showing him shooting at Scott’s back eight times as he ran away.

Slager was being held in Charleston County jail. He could face 30 years to life in prison if convicted.

In police dashboard camera video released Monday evening, Slager can be heard telling a fellow officer after the shooting he didn’t understand why Scott ran away.

“I don’t understand why he took off like that,” Slager said. “I don’t understand why he’d run.”

In a different case, Slager is accused of using excessive force during an August 2014 traffic stop in North Charleston in a lawsuit filed April 10 by Julius Wilson. Wilson was stopped for driving with a broken taillight, the same offense Scott was pulled over for the day he died.

Wilson says Slager and two other officers pulled him from his vehicle, restrained him face-down on the pavement and Slager fired a stun gun into his back.

A spokesman for the North Charleston police department declined to comment.

Another South Carolina man, Mario Givens, planned to file a lawsuit against Slager after his own complaint of abuse nearly two years ago was dropped after a brief police probe.

(Reporting by Harriet McLeod in Charleston, S.C.; Additional reporting and writing by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle and David Adams in Miami.; Editing by Peter Cooney and Doina Chiacu)

Related video:

North Charleston officer chuckled about adrenaline rush after shooting Walter Scott

‘Everything’s OK. … I just shot somebody,’ Officer Michael Slager says in a call

Jason Sickles, Yahoo

Yahoo News

https://player.vimeo.com/video/124829181?color=ffffff&byline=0&portrait=0

Shortly after fatally shooting Walter Scott in the back, North Charleston police Officer Michael Slager nervously chuckled about his adrenaline “pumping,” but also assured a caller that things would be all right, according to new audio clips published by two media outlets.

“Hey. Hey, everything’s OK, OK?” Slager says in a phone call to someone believed to be his pregnant wife. “I just shot somebody. Yeah, he’s OK.”

If Slager meant Scott, then he wasn’t OK. Slager fired his .45-caliber Glock eight times. Four bullets struck Scott in the back and one hit him in the ear. He died at the scene.

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Fired officer Michael Slager is being held without bond for the fatal shooting of Walter Scott. (Charleston County Jail)

Fired officer Michael Slager is being held without bond for the fatal shooting of Walter Scott. (Charleston County …

The recording of the officer’s phone call and a conversation with a supervisor at the scene doesn’t show Slager — it’s audio only, from the patrolman’s uniform microphone that’s synched with his squad car’s dashboard camera.Last week, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) made public 4 minutes and 22 seconds of the dashcam video showing Slager stopping Scott for a broken taillight and then giving chase when Scott took off on foot prior to the shooting.

But on Sunday, The Guardian published quotes from audio after the fatal shooting. The newspaper said Slager’s patrol car picked up a total of about an hour of audio. On Monday, the Charleston Post and Courier obtained the same extended recordings.

Yahoo News emails to North Charleston Police and SLED, the agency investigating the shooting, were not immediately returned on Monday. Thom Berry, a spokesman for SLED, told The Guardian that he had not been able to confirm it, but that the person heard on the audio appears to have been Slager.

The April 4 shooting was captured on another video taken by a witness. Police and Slager initially said that Scott, 50, was shot after a skirmish over the officer’s Taser stun gun. But when the witness video showed Scott being shot eight times as he ran away, Slager was fired and charged with murder. The footage also shows Slager dropping an object — which has the appearance of a Taser — on the ground near Scott’s body.

In the audio clip the newspaper posted online, Slager answers a call after what sounds like an iPhone ringtone. After assuring the caller that he is OK, he appears to briefly describe what happened.

“He grabbed my Taser, yeah. Yeah, he was running from me. I’m good. I just wanted to let you know.”

[Related: Report: Charleston Co. prosecutor won’t seek death penalty against Officer Slager]

Through a spokeswoman, Andy Savage, Slager’s defense attorney, declined to discuss the new audio recordings.

The conversation between Slager and the unidentified supervisor appears to come from inside a patrol car. The dialogue is standard fare following an officer-involved shooting, but the sort of stuff that is rarely heard by the public.

“What happens next?” Slager, an officer for five years, can be heard asking. The supervisor tells him he’ll be transported to police headquarters before being taken home.

“Take your crap off, take your vest off, kind of relax for two or three,” the senior officer says.

“It’ll be real quick,” he continues. “They’re gonna tell you you’re gonna be out for a couple of days, and you’ll come back and they’ll interview you then. They’re not going to ask you any kind of questions right now. They’ll take your weapon and we’ll go from there. That’s pretty much it.”

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Walter Scott, a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, was buried on Saturday in Summerville, S.C. (Photo: David Goldman, AP/Pool)

Walter Scott, a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, was buried on Saturday in Summerville, S.C. (Photo: David Goldman, …

The supervisor tells Slager that it is likely to be a few days before he has to give an official account of what happened.

“The last one we had, they waited a couple of days to interview officially, like, sit down and tell what happened,” he says.

Then he leaves him with some advice.

“By the time you get home, it would probably be a good idea to kind of jot down your thoughts on what happened,” he says. “You know, once the adrenaline quits pumping.”

“It’s pumping,” Slager says, laughing nervously.

“Oh, yeah,” the senior officer replies. “Oh, yeah.”

Jason Sickles is a reporter for Yahoo News. Follow him on Twitter (@jasonsickles).

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