Walter Scott and police officer Michael Slager were struggling on the ground seconds before Slager shot Scott dead, said the man who recorded video footage of the killing in South Carolina this week.
In his first public remarks since turning over the cellphone recording that led to Slager being charged with Scott’s murder, Feidin Santana said Slager (33), who may face the death penalty, “made a bad decision, and you pay for your decisions in this life”.
Santana said, as his video indicated, Scott was trying to escape after Slager had fired a stun gun at him – that was when the North Charleston patrolman shot him repeatedly in the back.
“They were down on the floor before I started recording,” Santana told NBC Nightly News. “I remember the police had control of the situation. He had control of Scott, and Scott was trying just to get away from the Taser. You can hear the sound of the Taser … before I started recording. I believe he just wanted to get away from the Taser.”
Slager told police that Scott had been stopped for a broken car light on Saturday morning and a tussle ensured. He shot Scott because the 50-year-old had “grabbed” the Taser and fled. Police told reporters in the following days that Scott had tried to use the Taser against the officer.
But Santana’s video footage showed Slager shooting Scott eight times from behind as Scott ran away from the confrontation.
Slager dropped object besidethe body
It also appeared to show Slager returning to the site of the struggle and picking up an object from the ground, possibly the Taser, before walking back to Scott’s body and dropping it beside him.
“As you can see in the video, the police officer just shot him in the back,” Santana said. He was on his way to work and filmed the footage of the incident as he walked past.
Santana met Scott’s family and their legal team and turned over the footage. He said he and the Scott family were “very emotional” during their meeting. “I thought about his position and their situation,” said Santana. “If I had a family member and that happened, I would want to know the truth.”
The amateur cameraman said Slager’s murder charge was “not something that no one can feel happy about” but suggested it was ultimately the right decision. “He has his family, Mr Scott also has his family,” Santana said.
“But I think he made a bad decision, and you pay for your decisions in this life. Mr Scott didn’t deserve this, and there were other ways that can be used to get him arrested. And that wasn’t the proper way to do that.”
L Chris Stewart, an attorney for Scott’s family, earlier said Santana had been brave to come forward with evidence that would be central to the prosecution of the officer.
“We have to really recognise the strength and fortitude and fearlessness that it took to come forward when you know you just filmed a police officer murder somebody,” he said, adding that the man’s actions “should be respected”.
South Carolina representative Justin Bamberg, an attorney who is assisting the Scott family, said the footage should put pressure on fellow members of the state legislature to pass a law forcing police officers to wear body cameras recording their actions.
“Had this witness not shown the courage that he showed and come forward, would we be standing here?” Bamberg asked.
“It is very arguable that, with body cameras on law enforcement, we won’t have to depend on the courage of a random stranger who happens to witness something happen.”
The mayor of North Charleston, R Keith Summey, said at a press conference on Wednesday that his department had ordered 150 body cameras for officers with help from a financial grant. He said all officers would wear the cameras while on patrol. – © Guardian News & Media 2015