Walter Scott Shooting: If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, What is Video Worth in the Court of Law?

December 13, 2016

 

Walter Scott was fatally shot by North Charleston, NC police officer, Michael Slager, on April 4, 2015.

 

What makes this case different from any other unarmed black man shot by a white police officer is the eyewitness video.

 

During the three-minute eyewitness video, Walter Scott is seen running away from officer Slager when he is shot eight times in the back.  After shooting Scott, officer Slager handcuffs him before placing his taser next to Walter Scott’s body.

 

What makes Walter Scott’s death so unsettling is the fact that the report filed by Officer Slager is completely different than the events in the eyewitness video.

 

 

 

In the video, which contradicts the officer’s account, Walter Scott appears non-confrontational; he is not arguing or trying to fight officer Slager. In fact, the only time in the video where Scott seems to be threatening is when Scott is seen pulling his arm out of the hold officer Slager had it in before turning around and running away.

 

Despite the eyewitness video, on December 5, 2016, a judge declared a mistrial after the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict in the case. The jury, comprised of 11 white members and one black member, said Monday that it was unable to come to a unanimous decision after 22 hours of deliberations over the course of four days. However, the Washington Post reported that earlier in the deliberations, a single juror said he would not vote for a conviction. 

During the trial, Slager testified, “[I was] in total fear and what was in my mind at that time was, people don’t run for a broken taillight. There’s always another reason. I don’t know why he ran. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

 

Slager’s defense attorney added that Slager was acting under the authority given to him by the law and local government. “He shot him in fear of his life and in fear of others in the neighborhood because this man was out of control and would do anything to stop anyone at the time,” Savage said during closing arguments. “Was he going to carjack someone? How was Slager supposed to know this?”

 

Slager’s defense attorney brings up good questions, but they are not the right questions.

 

The question that needs to be asked is, how can officer Slager be in “total fear” for his life, when Walter Scott was not threatening to him? Scott didn’t verbally or physically threaten Officer Slager. The one physical altercation they had was nothing but tug-and-pull in which Walter Scott was only trying to run away, making him non-compliant. Although Walter Scott wasn’t compliant, he also wasn’t threatening to officer Slager.

 

The biggest question that needs asking is in the world where everyone is recording or being recorded on cell phones, who or what do we believe? The video, or the skewed words of those who are in “total fear?”

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