North Charleston, South Carolina : Former South Carolina police officer, Michael Slager, was today sentenced to 20 years in prison more than two years after he fatally shot Walter Scott, 50, an unarmed black man, eight times as he ran away from the police officer during a traffic stop. Prosecutors say that Slager then planted a stun gun next to Scott’s body to reinforce a self-defense claim.
The 2015 incident was captured in a bystander videotape. At the sentencing hearing, Feiden Santana, the man who witnessed and filmed the shooting, said that he never saw Scott punch or fight Slager.
Slager originally pulled over Scott’s 1991 Mercedes for a broken tail light.
Videotape of the April 4, 2015 incident showed Slager shooting an unarmed Scott as he ran away from the former police officer during a traffic stop. The shooting death of a black man at the hands of a white police officer received national attention, especially after bystander video of the incident emerged.
The videotape, shows Slager taking eight shots at Scott, who subsequently fell after the final bullet was heard on the video. The video also shows Slager running back “toward where the initial scuffle occurred and picks something up off the ground,”. “Moments later, he drops an object near Mr. Scott’s body, the video shows.”
Slager was fired from the police force soon after the videotape was released to the media.
Judge David Norton found that Slager, a former officer with the North Charleston’s police department in South Carolina, committed second-degree murder and obstruction of justice.
In May, Slager pleaded guilty to violating Scott’s federal civil rights in a plea deal that dropped the state’s murder charge and two federal counts.
As part of the plea, prosecutors advocated that a judge apply sentencing guidelines that applied to second-degree murder and obstruction of justice, according to The Washington Post. This week was Slager’s sentencing hearing for that guilty plea in May.
“I thank God for the 50 years he was here,” said Judy Scott, Walter Scott’s mother, after Judge Norton’s ruling. Later, after the sentence was announced, Judy Scott forgave her son’s murderer.
“I forgive Michael Slager. I forgive you. Forgiveness is in my heart,” she reportedly said while looking directly at Slager in the courtroom.
Before the judge sentenced the former police officer, Slager, in handcuffs and chains, told that Scott family he was thankful for their forgiveness and said, “I wish this would have never happened.”
Slager faced up to life in prison in the sentencing hearing, which often resembled a full-fledged trial, with multiple witnesses coming to the stand for three days of testimony and questioning from attorneys about Scott’s last moments.
The city of North Charleston settled with the Scott family for $6.5 million after the family intended to file a wrongful death lawsuit in 2015.