Photo Credit: Reuters
On April 4, 2015, a man named Michael Slager stopped Walter Scott for a traffic infraction. According to Slager, the occupant of the car had a non-functioning third brake light. Scott, according to his brother, was on his way to get the brake light fixed. During the traffic stop, Scott fled the scene on foot and Slager followed. Slager fired his Taser at Walter Scott but Scott was able to run away. Slager then fired his gun at Walter Scott as he ran away. The victim was shot a total of five times. Once he realized the trouble he could be in for shooting an unarmed person, Slager called dispatch and lied, saying that he shot Walter Scott because he had tried to take his Taser. To back up his story, he planted his Taser on Scott's dead body. Fortunately (because most police accounts are immediately believed while civilian experiences are normally discounted) a young man named Feidin Santana had taken video of the chase on his phone. This video directly contradicted Slager's story and Slager was arrested.
Michael Slager was put on trial for murder in 2016, but the jury deadlocked. He did end up pleading guilty to deprivation of rights under color of law. Slager is now attending his sentencing hearing- possibly facing life in prison and a fine. Since Slager made a deal, his state charges and other federal charges have been dropped.
To many, this may simply be an interesting little tidbit, a news item you skim over as you read over today's events. After all, plenty of people have been shot by cops, many of us have gotten outraged, and then the world just keeps turning. But think for a moment how insane this is. This person, Michael Slager, a purported officer of the LAW not only shot someone who was running AWAY from him but made up a story (which he repeated several times to different people), tampered with a crime scene, and tried to plant a weapon on someone who was already dead. And this person plead guilty for deprivation of rights under color of law. The jury couldn't find him guilty for murder. He admitted he used "excessive force." But this is so much more than "excessive force," isn't it? This is a direct violation of the law and a willful undermining of the statutes he is supposed to be carrying out. Having officers on the street who murder civilians and lie and plant items and hide the truth is incredibly dangerous. Some might say that Scott shouldn't have run or that he had child support that was due or that he had done drugs. But that's not a reason to be executed, is it? Missing child support payments isn't worthy of the death penalty. Nor is using drugs- apparently- since we are currently extending our sympathies towards heroin abusers in the suburbs and not blowing their heads off. To some people, police brutality has become a "black people problem" and not an American problem- a view that needs to be rectified before we can start making important changes in our criminal justice system.
We can only hope that Michael Slager will come to know justice- no, not as a police officer, because he wasn't acquainted with it there, but as someone who has to live his life behind bars because he isn't able to coexist with others in society at large. This person is a menace and I hope that fact isn't lost on those who are sentencing him.