The South Carolina cop who shot and killed a man as he was running away from him, later claiming he was in fear for his life because the man was trying to take his taser, was sentenced to 20 years in prison a federal judge ruled today.
And only because a witness happened to video record the shooting.
The video shows North Charleston police officer Michael Slager shoot Walter Scott as the 50-year-old man was running away from him in 2015, striking him five times in the back, killing him instantly.
The video also shows Slager walking about 17 feet to Scott’s lifeless body and dropping his taser gun next to it to make it appear as if he shot Scott during a struggle over the stun gun.
However, Slager was not aware that a man named Feiden Santana was video recording his actions, which is what led to his termination and prosecution.
The video, shot by an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who was passing by the vacant lot where the shooting took place, showed Slager coolly taking aim and firing eight shots at Scott, 50, as he fled. Five of the shots hit the fleeing Scott in the backside.
Slager’s attorney, Andy Savage of Charleston, introduced evidence during the hearing to contend that Scott had resisted arrest and posed a threat to the officer in the seconds before the shooting.
However, Norton gave greater weight to prosecution evidence showing Slager had lied about crucial facts and tried to cover up aspects of the shooting so Scott appeared at fault.
Had there been no video, prosecutors said, it is likely Slager would not have been prosecuted.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge David Norton ruled that the shooting was second-degree murder as opposed to voluntary manslaughter, which is what Slager’s attorneys wanted.Norton also said he will be his sentencing on federal guidelines for a second-degree conviction, which ranges between 235 months and 293 months, settling on a 20-year sentence, even though federal prosecutors were seeking life in prison, according to the New York Times.
Slager, 36, had pulled Scott over for a broken rear brake light on April 4, 2015. During the traffic stop, Walter took off running because he was behind in child support payments, which would have landed him in jail.
Slager began chasing Scott through an open field and at one point, the two struggled. But Scott managed to break free and run away from Slager.
That was when Slager pulled out his gun and fired eight times with five bullets penetrating Scott’s back. Within seconds, Slager walked up to Scott’s body and dropped his taser gun next to it.
For the first few days, the North Charleston Police Department defended Slager, claiming he was in fear for his life.
But when the video surfaced a few days later, the department quickly fired Slager and he was eventually charged with manslaughter at the state level.
North Charleston agreed to pay Scott’s family a $6.5 million settlement in 2015.
But last year, a state trial resulted in a hung jury after one juror refused to convict Slager, which was when he agreed to plead guilty to federal deprivation of Scott’s civil rights.
In this case, the violation of Scott’s civil rights resulted in him being shot in the back, resulting in Slager’s second degree murder conviction.