Michael Slager has been formally charged with murder and is facing 30 years to life for shooting African-American Walter Scott in the back as he ran away. The entire incident was caught on film, causing an uproar and fierce debate over the police brutality.
The shooting happened on April 4 during a routine traffic stop in North Charleston, South Carolina, according to CBS News.
Former Officer Slager initially said that he had tried to use his Taser on the 50-year-old Scott, but it didn’t work. A physical altercation followed. Slager claimed he had to shoot his gun in self-defense after the suspect tried reaching for his weapons.
The video discounted Michael Slager‘s official account, instead showing an empty-handed Walter Scott running away.
The New York Times reports that North Charleston city officials took swift action and fired Officer Slager. He’s been in jail waiting for the results of the grand jury since April 7; his lawyers did not request bail. Special accommodations were made so Slager would not have any contact with other detainees, such as clearing cell blocks when the former officer had to move.
Now, the long-expected official indictment has been handed down, and Scarlett Wilson, solicitor for the ninth judicial circuit, announced it was time to get to work.
“We will move forward now in preparing our case. Really the prosecution work has just begun.”
Walter Scott’s family was pleased about the formal charges.
According to the Guardian, their attorney, Chris Stewart, said, “the wheels of justice turning in the right way.”
“The Scott family is as happy as can be. But of course the indictment does not make them whole for the loss they have suffered.”
The family explained that Walter Scott was likely running away to avoid jail time from the roughly $18,000 he owed in back child support.
Some people are claiming that real justice will likely be impossible because the case has reached such notoriety that any jury will be biased.
Wilson dismissed those claims.
“The issue is not whether or not someone has heard of this case. The issue is whether they can put everything they’ve heard aside and make a decision based on the facts and evidence presented in court.”
South Carolina state prosecutors sought felony charges against Michael Slager before. The ex-cop and two other officers shot three unarmed African-American men at routine traffic stops earlier this year. Two died, and one was seriously injured, but none of those cases made it to trial.
The key difference in the recent indictment is the video.
Another attorney for the Scott family, Justin Bamberg, believes the process is already giving too much leniency to Slager.
“We need to work out how we ended up in a position where a grand jury has to indict a law enforcement officer with murder.”
The family is expected to file a lawsuit against Michael Slager and the police department as well.
[Image Credit: Getty Images]