In the first day of testimony in the South Carolina criminal trial of Michael Slager, the white former police officer accused of fatally shooting Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, Scott’s mother was emotional on the stand, recounting her phone conversation with her son as he was pulled over by police.
Slager is accused of killing Scott after a traffic stop in North Charleston in April 2015. Slager was an officer with the North Charleston Police Department at the time and says he stopped Scott’s car because a brake light was out. Slager, who was later fired from the police force, was charged with murder last year after witness video of the incident surfaced and appeared to show the moment he fatally shot Scott from behind as he ran away. Slager has pleaded not guilty.
Slager is also awaiting trial in federal court, charged with violating Scott’s civil rights, using a firearm during the commission of the civil rights offense and obstruction of justice.
In opening statements in a Charleston courtroom this morning, Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, the prosecutor for Charleston County, argued to the jury that the former cop acted with malice and forethought before he allegedly fired multiple rounds into Scott’s back.
“An unarmed man shot eight times. Eight times,” Wilson said slowly, emphasizing each word.
Judy Scott, #WalterScott’s mom, collapses after giving testimony about hearing son’s last words.
Wilson said Slager’s “first instinct” was to lie about the incident by claiming that, at the time he fired his weapon, Scott was coming toward him with a Taser that Scott had managed to take from him. She said Slager staged the crime scene by allegedly dropping the Taser near Scott’s body.
“It was wrong,” Wilson told the court.
Slager’s attorney, Andy Savage, in opening statements explained the dangers police officers face each day on duty. He said Slager was tasked with patrolling the most “crime-ridden area” in North Charleston, describing the 25 pounds of protective gear Slager put on when suiting up for the job.
During his five-year career with the North Charleston Police Department, Slager did not issue a ticket for 98 percent of traffic stops he made for equipment failure, according to Savage. The defense attorney argued the same would have likely happened for Scott if it weren’t for decisions he allegedly made during a confrontation with Slager.