- Michael Slager, 33, has now been formally indicted on a murder charge
- Walter Scot, an unarmed 50-year-old man, was shot dead on April 4 after fleeing a traffic stop
- The shooting gained international attention after an onlooker captured footage on his cell phone
- Walter Scott’s brother Rodney Scott said the family is ‘very happy and pleased’ with the indictment
The white former South Charleston police officer sacked following the fatal shooting of Walter Scott on April 4 has been formally indicted on a murder charge.
Michael Slager was charged with murder only after cell phone footage emerged of him firing eight times at Scott, an unarmed 50-year-old black man who was running away from him after a traffic stop.
‘The jury will make up its own mind after it sees the video and hears the other testimony,’ said prosecutor Scarlett Wilson who announced Slager’s indictment on Monday. No trial date has been set.
Michael Slager, left, was formally indicted on a murder charge on Monday after the fatal shooting of Walter Scott, right, was captured on video on April 4
In South Carolina, the investigating agency typically presents the case to a grand jury, not the prosecutor.
Wilson also said that the death penalty does not seem to apply in the case because there were no aggravating circumstances such as robbery or kidnapping as required under South Carolina law.
The 33-year-old Slager faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted. He has been jailed without bond since his arrest.
Slager’s lawyer didn’t want to comment on the indictment.
‘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,’ Attorney Andy Savage said in a statement.
‘Today was just an example of if you keep the faith, even in the darkest times, you will see the light,’ he said.
‘We are going to patiently wait for the criminal trial in this case and we are going to patiently wait to see if the city, the police department and the chief are going to take responsibility in the civil suit.’
Slager told authorities after the April 4 shooting that he fired his Taser at Scott as he ran, but the stun gun didn’t work.
Then during a scuffle over the weapon, Slager said, he shot Scott with his handgun in self-defense.
The video appears to show the two men briefly scuffle in a vacant lot, but it also shows Scott clearly running away when the officer starts firing his handgun.
Family members have said Scott may have started running after the traffic stop because he was fearful of returning to jail over about $18,000 he owed in late child-support payments.
But days later, the video shot by a man walking to work surfaced, and Slager was arrested, easing tensions in the community.
Slager was charged with murder by state law enforcement agents and fired from the police force immediately after they viewed the video.
The shooting rekindled an ongoing national debate about the treatment of black suspects at the hands of white officers.
The cell phone video added fuel to the national debate about race and aggressive police tactics that intensified in August with the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
In that case, there was no video of the shooting and Officer Darren Wilson was not indicted.
In South Carolina, charges have been brought against Slager and three other officers shooting at unarmed black men. Three of the men were killed, and the forth seriously injured.
Only one of the cases has gone to trial, ending in a mistrial. A retrial is set for next week.
Grand juries in South Carolina are 18 people picked at random from the county who typically serve from several months to a year. They usually hear from the investigating officer and decide whether to indict a defendant.
Prosecutors cannot try anyone for a serious crime in the state without an indictment, unless the defendant waives the grand jury hearing.
Defense attorneys said it is rare for a grand jury not to indict because just 12 of the 18 jurors have to agree it is probable the person charged committed the crime.