Dash cam: Officer who shot black man told boss he ran away

Malik Shabazz, the president and founder of Black Lawyers for Justice, speaks at a rally in front of North Charleston, S.C., City Hall on Monday, April 13, 2015.

Malik Shabazz, the president and founder of Black Lawyers for Justice, speaks at a rally in front of North Charleston, S.C., City Hall on Monday, April 13, 2015.

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The white South Carolina police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of a black man can be heard telling his supervisor twice that he didn’t understand why the man ran away, according to dashcam video.

That officer, Michael Slager, in is jail and has been fired in the wake of the April 4 shooting death of Walter Scott, 50, who was buried over the weekend. The shooting happened after Slager pulled Scott over for what the officer said was a broken taillight on his Mercedes.

Scott was behind some $18,000 in his child support payments, and family members have said he may have run because he was worried about going back to jail. A warrant had been issued for his arrest.

The shooting was captured on a cellphone camera by a man passing by and became the latest example nationally of an unarmed black man shot by a white police officer, further stirring outrage.

The shooting was not captured by Slager’s dashboard camera, which shows what appears to be a routine traffic stop until Scott takes off running. But the cellphone video shows Slager firing eight times at Scott.

The State Law Enforcement Division has released almost 13 hours of dashcam video from the cruisers of the five officers who responded to the scene.

SLED spokesman Thom Berry said Monday that the actions of all North Charleston officers at the scene are being reviewed. Any findings will be forwarded to a local prosecutor.

On one video, Slager can be heard answering a call on his cellphone.

“Everything’s OK, OK?” he tells the caller. “I just shot somebody.”

He also tells the caller: “He grabbed my Taser, yeah. He was running from me.” The officer initially said after the shooting that Scott had tried to take his Taser, and the man who recorded the shooting on his cellphone said he started recording after noticing a scuffle.

Slager can later be heard on the video talking to an officer Berry identified as his supervisor.

“I’m sure SLED will be on the way,” the supervisor says. “Once they get here, it will be real quick. They’re going to tell you you’ll be off a couple of days, we’ll come back and interview you. They’re not going to ask you any questions right now. They’ll take your weapon and we’ll go from there.”

The supervisor suggests to Slager, “When you get home, it would probably be a good idea to kind of jot down your thoughts on what happened — the adrenaline is just pumping.”

“It’s pumping,” Slager responds, and they both laugh.

Then there is a pause for a few seconds, and Slager speaks again, softly:

“I don’t understand why he took off like that.”

Another short pause.

“I don’t understand why he’d run.”

On Monday, a small group of protesters blocked a main avenue in North Charleston and the entrance to City Hall.

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Are Cell Phones Changing the Narrative on Police Shootings?

[A] police officer in North Charleston, S.C., is seen shooting an apparently unarmed man after a scuffle following a traffic stop. Publish Date April 7, 2015

[A] police officer in North Charleston, S.C., is seen shooting an apparently unarmed man after a scuffle following a traffic stop. Publish Date April 7, 2015

(Rolling Stone Magazine) Almost everyone’s seen the video. The latest murder of an unarmed African-American man by police was captured in its entirety by a bystander named Feidin Santana, and the footage was so gruesome it basically precluded any controversy.

Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager has already been fired and charged for the murder of Walter Scott. Still, one has to wonder: “Would this guy have gotten away with this without the video?”

Nonwhite America has watched police lie compulsively about incidents like this for as long as there have been police. You can open the law books and find cases like the Scott murder in almost any state of the union, in almost every year, going back decades and decades.

The only difference is that in the past, before everyone above the age of 2 had a cell phone, the insultingly lame explanations of the police (“The gun just went off”; “The suspect suddenly took a swing at me”) were almost always swallowed whole, by juries and the media alike.

But even before cell phones became ubiquitous, the presumption that a police officer’s testimony is sacrosanct started to die out. Public defenders in big cities long ago learned to deal with the frustration of police caught lying on the stand who were allowed to continue giving evidence in other cases.

Even judges, increasingly, aren’t always buying the stories police officers give anymore, particularly when it comes to issues like probable cause. Earlier this year, a local defense attorney sent me a long list of cases, mostly here in New York, that involved judges ruling that police had fabricated testimony. It’s clear even magistrates are losing patience.

Take People v. Andrews, for instance, in which a judge named Steven Knopf threw his figurative hands up in frustration over a police officer’s changing descriptions of a “snowball” of cocaine he claimed to have seen a young black man throw into a Ford Focus. The story changed so many times that the judge had no choice but to toss the case.

“It is clear to this Court that [the] Police Officer’s multiple descriptions. . .indicates he was unclear about what, if anything, he actually observed in this defendant’s hand,” the judge wrote. “In fact, it is this Court’s belief that [the officer] did not see anything in the defendant’s hand, in spite of his creative descriptive testimony.”

The problem is that this kind of “testilying” is usually only caught when the officer’s fabrications are so absurd and incompetent that judges literally have no choice but to suppress his or her evidence. Judges don’t like showing up cops in court. There are even cases on record when judges admit out loud to being reluctant to discredit the testimony of police, no matter how clumsy their testimony.

“I don’t like to jeopardize their career and all the rest of it,” a federal judge named John Sprizzo said a few years back, after ruling that two cops had “tailored” their testimony to justify an illegal search.

Minus video, a defendant on the wrong side of a police fabrication typically has to hope the arresting officer is so dumb and such a maladroit liar that he leaves a judge no choice but to override his natural inclination to buy the testimony of a sworn officer. Those are pretty long odds.

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Walter Scott SC Shooting Draws New Scrutiny to Michael Slager’s Record

Michael Slager is seen in a booking photo released by the Charleston County Sheriff's office on April 7, 2015. Charleston County Sheriff's Office

Michael Slager is seen in a booking photo released by the Charleston County Sheriff’s office on April 7, 2015. Charleston County Sheriff’s Office

Authorities say they are re-examining past cases and arrests involving North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer Michael Slager in the wake of the shooting death of an unarmed man.

Slager, 33, has been accused of murder in the shooting death of driver Walter Scott, a Saturday confrontation that was captured in a bystander’s cellphone footage.

Slager previously was the subject of two citizen complaints, including a September 2013 complaint alleging he used a stun gun on someone “for no reason” during a burglary investigation, according to city records released by authorities.

Slager was exonerated after a subsequent probe, according to the records.

A second complaint filed in January alleged that Slager failed to file a police report after responding to neighborhood disturbance, a complaint the department said it “sustained,” though it was unclear whether he faced disciplinary action in the matter.

Slager’s neighbor Kerbin Delcid described him as a family man who had ambitions of serving in a federal law enforcement capacity. Delcid said Slager’s family – including his wife, who is pregnant, and two stepchildren – were quiet and unassuming, often seen walking their dogs together.

“I was just surprised [by the shooting], you know, because he didn’t seem like that type of guy,” Delcid said.

Slager has been dismissed from the police department, but the city will continue to provide his wife health insurance until their baby is born. She is eight months pregnant, according to Mayor Keith Summey.

“We think that is the humane thing for us to do, and we’re going to do that,” Summey said.

Slager spent six years in the U.S. Coast Guard and also served as a waiter at a New Jersey restaurant before becoming a police officer, according to personnel files released by authorities.

Slager lives about a mile from the empty lot where the shooting happened.

Dramatic cellphone video of the deadly encounter, captured by bystander Feidin Santana, was a determining factor in the decision to fire Slager and charge him with murder, authorities said. The video, shot from a distance, shows the moment Slager began shooting at Scott and the immediate aftermath as others arrived on the scene.

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South Carolina Officer Is Charged With Murder of Walter Scott

[A] police officer in North Charleston, S.C., is seen shooting an apparently unarmed man after a scuffle following a traffic stop. Publish Date April 7, 2015

[A] police officer in North Charleston, S.C., is seen shooting an apparently unarmed man after a scuffle following a traffic stop. Publish Date April 7, 2015

WASHINGTON — A white police officer in North Charleston, S.C., was charged with murder on Tuesday after a video surfaced showing him shooting in the back and killing an apparently unarmed black man while the man ran away.

The officer, Michael T. Slager, 33, said he had feared for his life because the man had taken his stun gun in a scuffle after a traffic stop on Saturday. A video, however, shows the officer firing eight times as the man, Walter L. Scott, 50, fled. The North Charleston mayor announced the state charges at a news conference Tuesday evening.

The shooting came on the heels of high-profile instances of police officers’ using lethal force in New York, Cleveland, Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere. The deaths have set off a national debate over whether the police are too quick to use force, particularly in cases involving black men.

A White House task force has recommended a host of changes to the nation’s police policies, and President Obama sent Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to cities around the country to try to improve police relations with minority neighborhoods.

North Charleston is South Carolina’s third-largest city, with a population of about 100,000. African-Americans make up about 47 percent of residents, and whites account for about 37 percent. The Police Department is about 80 percent white, according to data collected by the Justice Department in 2007, the most recent period available.

“When you’re wrong, you’re wrong,” Mayor Keith Summey said during the news conference. “And if you make a bad decision, don’t care if you’re behind the shield or just a citizen on the street, you have to live by that decision.”

The shooting unfolded after Officer Slager stopped the driver of a Mercedes-Benz with a broken taillight, according to police reports. Mr. Scott ran away, and Officer Slager chased him into a grassy lot that abuts a muffler shop. He fired his Taser, an electronic stun gun, but it did not stop Mr. Scott, according to police reports.

Moments after the struggle, Officer Slager reported on his radio: “Shots fired and the subject is down. He took my Taser,” according to police reports.

But the video, which was taken by a bystander and provided to The New York Times by the Scott family’s lawyer, presents a different account. The video begins in the vacant lot, apparently moments after Officer Slager fired his Taser. Wires, which carry the electrical current from the stun gun, appear to be extending from Mr. Scott’s body as the two men tussle and Mr. Scott turns to run.

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