Michael Slager, 33, was fired from his patrolman job after being charged with murder in the April 4 death of Walter Scott, 50, who was fatally shot in the back as he was running from the officer following a traffic stop.
A bystander using his cellphone captured a video of the shooting, which was widely distributed in the media. The death reignited a public outcry over police treatment of African Americans that flared last year after killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City and elsewhere.
The video evidence does not guarantee the prosecution a conviction in the case, said Scarlett Wilson, solicitor for the Ninth Judicial Circuit.
“Just because you have video in this case, it doesn’t mean it’s the be-all and end-all,” she said at a news conference in Charleston. “The issue is the people who were there who were involved, who saw or heard anything, who can demonstrate what they saw and heard.”
If convicted of murder, Slager would face between 30 years and life in prison without the possibility of parole. No trial date has been set, Wilson said.
Scott was driving a black Mercedes-Benz when Slager pulled him over for a broken tail light. Video from the dashboard camera in Slager’s police cruiser recorded a respectful exchange between the two men before the officer returned to his patrol car.
A few minutes later, after being told by Slager to stay in the Mercedes, Scott emerged from his car and ran off, apparently unarmed.
The subsequent cell phone video showed the men in a brief tussle before Scott ran off again, Slager fired his handgun eight times and Scott slumped into the grass. There was a gap between the two videos.
Before Slager’s arrest, he said through an attorney that he feared for his life when he shot Scott.
The ex-officer’s current attorney, Andrew Savage III, said on Monday his legal team was still waiting to receive the state’s investigative materials in the case.
“Until we have an opportunity to fully evaluate the state’s case and to compare it with our own investigation we will not be commenting on any aspect of the case,” he said.