Reports indicate that the ex-police officer who fatally shot Walter Scott in South Carolina has been indicted by a grand jury.
Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager was arrested and charged with murder in April. The announcement of the indictment was made Monday by the 9th Circuit Solicitor’s Office.
“The facts that were presented to us by SLED [South Carolina Law Enforcement Division] warranted a grand jury,” Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said at a news conference Monday. “Certainly this case has gotten a lot of publicity, but the issue is not whether or not someone has heard about this case.”
The shooting took place when 50-year-old Scott ran away from Slager, who fired his weapon and hit Scott five times. Slager had pulled Scott and another man over for a traffic violation.
The incident was caught on cellphone video, which showed a scuffle between Slager and Scott and several objects falling to the ground. When Scott fled, Slager tried to Taser him but failed. Slager then drew his weapon and fired eight shots at Scott when Scott was approximately 10 feet away. Demonstrations and protests soon followed in South Carolina over the shooting many believed to be racially motivated.
Slager, 33, was a first class patrolman who had served on the force for five years and had two prior complaints filed against him, according to reports. In 2013, a man claimed Slager shot him with a Taser for no reason. In another incident, Slager allegedly pulled a man out of his house wearing only his boxer shorts and Tasered him.
“Today was just an example that if you just keep the faith, even in the darkest times, you’ll see the light,” Chris Stewart, an attorney for the Scott family, said to the media. “But this is just step one.”
South Carolina NAACP State Conference President Dr. Lonnie Randolph said the indictment is nothing to celebrate because there is more to the process to get justice.
“While the video of former police officer Michael Slager firing his gun eight times at 50-year-old Walter Scott has been branded into our collective conscious, the announcement of this indictment reminds us all that the judicial process is not stagnant,” said Randolph. “We will be monitoring this case closely to ensure that justice is served for not only Mr. Scott and his family, but for all citizens in South Carolina who could potentially be harmed by out of control law enforcement officers.”
No date has been set for the trial. If convicted, Slager could face the death penalty or 30 years to life in prison.
“The issue is whether or not they can put everything they’ve heard aside and make a decision based on the facts and the evidence that are presented in court,” Wilson said. “I feel sure the people of Charleston County can decide it.”