A former North Charleston, S.C., police officer was sentenced to prison for the shooting death of an unarmed motorist on Thursday.
Michael Slager, 36, received a 20-year term with no fine for second degree murder in the April 2015 death of Walter Scott. Slager had faced life behind bars.
“I wish I could go back and change events, but I can’t and I am very sorry for that,” Slager told the court.
Describing Slager as living a “spotless life” prior to the shooting, U.S. District Judge David Norton said the former police officer’s actions on the day of the shooting were disproportionate to Scott’s actions.
Addressing Slager, Norton stated that the perpetrator “acted out of malice and forethought, shooting dead an unarmed and fleeing Walter Scott.”
The prison sentence follows an agreement reached in May in which Slager pleaded guilty to violating Scott’s civil rights. Prosecutors dropped state murder charges in return.
On April 4, 2015, Slager stopped Scott on a North Charleston street for operating a vehicle without a functioning tail light. Police dash-cam video captured Scott fleeing the car and Slager pursued Scott to a nearby lot.
It is suspected Scott fled to avoid arrest for failure to pay $18,000 in back pay for child-support. An active bench warrant effective January 2013 was pending at the time of his death.
What occurred after Scott exited his vehicle was recorded by a passerby on a cell phone: Following a scuffle, Slager deployed his Taser, but Scott broke free of Slager’s grasp and attempted to flee a second time. Slager drew his weapon and fired eight times, five of which struck Scott. Slager had contended he fired out of fear for his life.
As Scott lay dying on the ground, Slager recorded in an official police report that Scott attempted to take his Taser and fled. Video, however, showed Slager picking up an object near where he stood and dropping it off next to Scott’s body. It is believed to be his Taser.
Days after the incident, due to the video contradicting the police officer’s account, Slager was dismissed by the city of North Charleston. Slager was indicted, tried, with his first trial ending in a hung jury in December 2016.
Months after the mistrial, Slager was indicted on federal civil rights charges and entered a plea of guilty on May 2.
“Law enforcement officers have the noble calling to serve and protect,” a statement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions read. “Officers who violate anyone’s rights also violate their oaths of honor, and they tarnish the names of the vast majority of officers, who do incredible work.”
[NPR] [Wall Street Journal] [Photo courtesy David Goldman/AP via Mashable]