Police cruiser video shows moments before fatal US shooting
Updated: 2015-04-10 11:20
Muhiyidin D'baha with the local Black Lives Matters, uses a bullhorn to speak to a crowd after a rally in front of the North Charleston City Hall for shooting victim Walter L. Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina, USA, April 8, 2015. [Photo/IC]
NORTH CHARLESTON - The traffic stop starts like any other: An officer pulls over a motorist, walks up to the driver's side window and asks for license and registration. What happened minutes later appears to take place without any obvious sign of provocation or conflict that would lead to a fatal shooting: The driver opens the door and runs, and the officer chases after him.
Video released Thursday from the dashboard of white South Carolina police Officer Michael Thomas Slager's cruiser captures the very first moments he and black motorist Walter Scott meet, a benign encounter at its earliest stages. It changes quickly as Scott takes off running and the officer runs after him.
The video captures the moments leading up to a shooting death that has sparked outrage as the latest example of a white police officer killing an unarmed black man. The shooting itself was captured by an eyewitness on his iPhone and provided the impetus for the officer to be charged with murder and fired. That's a striking difference from the recent cases in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City, where white officers were not charged in the deaths of African-Americans, prompting protests and intense debate about police treatment of minorities.
Questions remained in South Carolina over how the traffic stop turned deadly. The onboard video provides a more complete picture of the encounter.
The shooting took place Saturday and the police and Slager's lawyer said the officer fired in self-defense during a scuffle over his department-issued stun gun. Within days, the eyewitness video surfaced and immediately changed perceptions of what happened, leading the police to charge Slager with murder and fire him from the force he'd worked on for five years.
The dashboard camera video shows Scott being pulled over in a used Mercedes-Benz he had purchased just days earlier. Police have said he was being stopped for a broken tail light. Slager is seen walking toward the driver's side window and heard asking for Scott's license and registration. Slager then returns to his cruiser. Next, the video shows Scott starting to get out of the car, his right hand raised above his head, then he quickly gets back into the car and closes the door.
Seconds later, he opens the door again and takes off running. Within a city block or two, out of the dashboard camera's view, Slager catches up to him in an empty lot.
A bystander noticed the confrontation and pushed record on his phone, capturing video that has outraged Americans: it shows Scott running away again, and Slager firing eight shots at his back.