Jury sees video of white South Carolina officer shooting black man

Miles Scott, son of the late Walter Scott, lays a rose as relatives and friends gathered to remember Scott, at Live Oak Memorial Gardens in Charleston

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – Jurors in South Carolina on Friday watched three minutes of a cellphone video that captured white police officer Michael Slager shooting black motorist Walter Scott as he ran away.

Slager, 34, who has been dismissed from the North Charleston Police Department, is on trial for murder for shooting Scott in the back as he fled following a traffic stop for a broken tail light.

After a tussle in which Slager stunned Scott with a Taser, the officer fired eight shots, five of which struck Scott, 50.

The shooting, captured on video by 28-year-old barber Feidin Santana, intensified a national debate over police use of deadly force against black men. Shown repeatedly on television and social media, the video helped fuel outrage from groups such as Black Lives Matter and was presented to the jury of 11 whites and one black on the second day of testimony in Slager’s trial.

Santana testified that he was walking and late to his job on the morning of April 4, 2015, when he saw a black man running toward him, followed by a police officer. 

The video picks up with Santana running, the viewfinder held sideways, until it closes in on an upright image of the two men just after they emerge from the struggle. As Scott breaks away and starts running, Slager fires seven consecutive shots followed by a brief pause and then an eighth shot. Scott falls face first onto the grass.

The video then showed Slager instructing Scott to place his hands behind his back. It is unclear whether Scott was responsive as Slager cuffed his hands behind his back. Another officer arrived and appeared to tend to the moribund victim.

Santana said he did not want to be involved but “there were only three people there, Walter Scott, the officer and me.”

Defense attorney Andrew Savage questioned Santana over media interviews Santana gave after the shooting and a song Santana wrote about police abuse six months before the shooting.

“I’m not against law enforcement,” Santana said. “I’m against police brutality.”

On Thursday, prosecutors accused Slager of altering the crime scene by moving the Taser closer to the handcuffed body so he could claim Scott had taken the stun gun. The video showed the Taser on a dirt path where the two men scuffled but ended without showing how it got closer to the body.

(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Toni Reinhold)