Former North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer Michael Slager pleaded guilty today to a federal civil rights offense in the shooting death of unarmed black man Walter Scott
Slager pleading guilty to violating Scott’s civil rights in federal court this afternoon will end the federal case against him and also resolve the state charges that were still pending after a mistrial was declared in the state murder trial last year, reports ABC news.
Slager’s mother and Scott’s mother both wept in court as the 35-year old former cop was led away in handcuffs.
Slager, dressed in a gray suit, said very little, answering “yes” to each of the judge’s questions about whether he was aware of the various rights he was surrendering.
Slager’s attorney, Andrew Savage, said in a statement before court, “We hope that Michael’s acceptance of responsibility will help the Scott family as they continue to grieve their loss.”
“The healing starts today,” Scott’s brother said after court.
Slager, who is white, was accused of killing Scott, an unarmed black man, at a traffic stop on April 4, 2015, while Slager was an officer with North Charleston’s police department. Video that surfaced shortly after the encounter appears to show the moment Slager fatally shot Scott as he ran away. The video garnered national attention, propelling Slager into the spotlight. He was fired from the force after the shooting.
Slager was charged in South Carolina with murder and pleaded not guilty. The case ended in a mistrial in December 2016 and the retrial was expected to take place this year. The federal trial had been expected to take place later this month.
The Justice Department said in a statement today that, according to documents filed in connection with the guilty plea, Slager “willfully used deadly force on Walter Scott even though it was objectively unreasonable under the circumstances.”
“Slager had stopped Scott’s vehicle after observing that a brake light was not working. During the stop, Scott fled on foot and Slager pursued him,” the Justice Department said. “During the foot chase, Slager deployed his Taser and Scott fell to the ground. Scott managed to get off of the ground and again run away. Scott was unarmed and running away when Scott fired eight shots at him.”
Scott was struck five times, with all of the bullets entering from behind, the Justice Department said.
Anthony Scott, Walter Scott’s brother, said at a news conference this afternoon, “We asked for justice, we received justice. … We got it done.
“This is not just a victory for my family, this is a victory for Charleston, North Charleston, South Carolina, the United States and the world,” Anthony Scott added.
He said today shows that “unjust cops … will not be tolerated anymore.”
“Today he [Slager] told the truth. He said he did it,” Anthony Scott said. “The healing starts today.”
Of his brother, Anthony Scott said emotionally, “I hope he’s looking down and saying ‘good job.'”