CHARLESTON, S.C. – A white former South Carolina officer was sentenced to 20 years in jail on Thursday for fatally taking pictures an unarmed black motorist within the again in 2015, wrapping up a case that turned a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter motion.
Attorneys for ex-North Charleston Officer Michael Slager mentioned he shot 50-year-old Walter Scott in self-defence after the 2 fought and Scott reached for Slager’s stun gun. They mentioned race didn’t play any position within the taking pictures and that Slager by no means had any “racial animus” towards minorities.
Nonetheless, Slager pleaded responsible in federal courtroom to violating Scott’s civil rights. As a part of the plea settlement reached in Could, prosecutors dropped state homicide costs. A 12 months in the past, a state choose declared a mistrial when jurors deadlocked.
READ MORE: Mistrial declared in case in opposition to former SC police officer
“It is a tragedy that shouldn’t have occurred,” U.S. District Choose David Norton mentioned.
A bystander recorded the taking pictures on a cellphone, and it was shared world wide, setting off protests throughout the U.S. as demonstrators mentioned it was one other egregious instance of cops’ mistreating African-People.
Scott’s household testified earlier than the sentence and mentioned they’d forgiven Slager.
“I’m not offended at you, Michael. Michael, I forgive you, and Michael, I do pray for you now and for your loved ones, as a result of we’ve gone by a traumatic time,” he mentioned.
The taking pictures angered native African-People who complained for years that North Charleston police harassed blacks, pulling them over or questioning them unnecessarily as they cracked down on crime. The Scott household efficiently pleaded for calm, asking everybody to let the justice system run its course.
Two months after the taking pictures, a younger white man killed 9 black church members in a racially motivated attacked throughout a Bible research in Charleston. The relations of the church taking pictures victims struck an identical forgiveness tone after that assault.
READ MORE: South Carolina officer who shot Walter Scott advised boss he ran away
Earlier than the sentenced was handed down, the choose needed to determine whether or not the taking pictures amounted to second-degree homicide or manslaughter. Norton discovered that it was homicide.
The bystander’s video began after the battle between Slager and Scott and confirmed Scott operating away and the officer firing eight occasions. Scott was hit within the again 5 occasions.
After the taking pictures, Slager picked up his stun gun and positioned it subsequent to Scott. Slager contends he was securing the weapon. Prosecutors assume he put it there to bolster his self-defence story.
An emotional Slager advised the Scott household that he was grateful for his or her forgiveness.
“This tragic occasion that occurred in seconds has modified the lives of everybody concerned,” he mentioned. “With my actions that day, Walter Scott is now not along with his household, and I’m accountable for that.”
The choose additionally discovered that Slager, 36, obstructed justice when he made statements to state police after the taking pictures.
A pre-sentencing report for Slager discovered that he dedicated manslaughter and beneficial 10 to just about 13 years in jail. However the choose was not certain by that call.
READ MORE: Walter Scott household to get $6.5M settlement from South Carolina metropolis
If Slager had confronted one other state trial and been convicted of homicide, he may have been sentenced to wherever from 30 years to life in jail.
Convictions in police officer shootings are unusual within the U.S. and jail time is even rarer.
South Carolina has been aggressive in charging white officers who shoot unarmed black folks. 4 have pleaded responsible in state or federal courtroom previously six years. However solely Slager and former state trooper Sean Groubert, who shot a person as he tried to get his pockets throughout a seat belt violation examine, could have been despatched to jail. Groubert was sentenced to 5 years behind bars.