Former South Carolina Police Officer Charged with Federal Civil Rights Violation
A federal grand jury indictment unsealed Wednesday charged the former South Carolina police officer who shot and killed a man fleeing a traffic stop with a federal civil rights violation.
Michael Slager, 34, was accused of depriving Walter Scott–the man he shot–of his civil rights. When Slager shot Scott “without legal justification” in April 2015, the grand jury said Slager took away his constitutional right “to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer.”
The grand jury also said that Slager knowingly misled investigators by telling them Scott approached him with a Taser, when in fact, Scott was unarmed. For this, he was charged with obstruction of justice, in addition to one count of using a weapon during “a felony crime of violence.”
A warrant for Slager’s arrest was subsequently ordered, and he was turned into the FBI Wednesday morning. Slager pleaded not guilty to the charges at a Wednesday hearing in Charleston, and remains free on bail.
What began as a routine traffic stop turned lethal when Scott fled the scene on foot and Slager fired several shots that hit Scott “multiple times in the back,” according to the affidavit. The entire scene was caught on video tape thanks to Slager’s patrol vehicle dashboard camera and a bystander who recorded the encounter on their camera.
While the video footage makes it appear like Slager “just shot him in the back for no reason,” attorneys for the former officer claim the two men struggled over Slager’s Taser and Scott grabbed the weapon before running away from the car.
Chris Stewart, the Scott family’s attorney, said he was relieved and excited by the news of the federal indictment, which he sees as a historic step toward justice in police brutality cases.
“Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, all of them, every significant case the Justice Department has investigated and no indictments came down. This is the first time that an indictment has come down in a national case,” Stewart said. “I’m still in a state of shock … I don’t know in the past 20 years out of thousands of allegations of police misconduct how often this has happened, if it ever has. The biggest thing is that the general public must understand is how monumental this is.”
According to the statement released by the Department of Justice, Slager could face life in prison and a potential $250,000 fine if convicted.
Posted in The Takedown