Police Officer Charged with Murder of Unarmed Man

My son's car is being repaired and I had to pick him up after classes today. He explained how today had been a particularly good day because two of his professors had very interesting guest speakers in class. One of those speakers was a police officer and childhood friend of the professor. The officer explained how most cops are good and how he the and professor had grown up in a ruff area and were frequently harassed by police. His motivation for becoming an officer was to make changes from the inside. 

Unfortunately, shortly after our ride home, the news of yet another shooting and killing of an unarmed person by police was on the news. As I have stated before, I believe that most cops are good cops, but good cops aren't the problem. There is a major problem with the way some officers target and interact with members of the black community.

A police officer with the North Charleston, SC Police Department, was arrested today, Tuesday April 7th, for a shooting that took place Saturday morning after a traffic stop concerning a brake light. The officer, Michael Slager, claimed he had feared for his life because the man had taken his stun gun during a scuffle after the traffic stop. His arrest took place after a video surfaced that shows him shooting an unarmed man eight times who was running away.

Walter L. Scott, a 50 year old Coast Guard veteran and father of four, who family members said was preparing to get married was identified as the victim. Five of the eight bullets hit Scott, his family’s attorney said; four of those struck his back, the other hit an ear.

 

"I can tell you that as the result of that video and the bad decision made by our officer, he will be charged with murder," North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey told reporters Tuesday. "When you're wrong, you're wrong. And if you make a bad decision — don't care if you're behind the shield or just a citizen on the street — you have to live by that decision." 

Unfortunately, it takes someone taking a video at the exact moment of a police shooting before its considered a bad decision or a possibility that a crime was committed. When police are not held accountable for their questionable behavior, it encourages other officers to commit even bolder acts. For years, rouge cops have been getting away with what have been blatant abuses of power and using deadly force unnecessarily. 

Michael Slager didn't even hesitate to shot, because most likely he felt his story of feeling threatened would be believed. Two people filed complaints against Slager during his time with the force, including one man who said the policeman shot him with a Taser for no reason in September 2013.

A woman who witnessed the 2013 incident and gave her account to the investigators at the time, and told a newspaper reporter that Slager pulled Mario Givens, who was clad in boxer shorts, from his home and shot him with a Taser. Internal investigators exonerated Slager of any wrongdoing, even though the suspect in that case was never arrested.

Attorney David Aylor, who released a statement on Slager’s behalf earlier this week, said Tuesday that he wasn’t representing the officer anymore.

I will be fifty years old in August, the same age as the victim. It's bad enough having watch out for criminals, but having to fear normal interactions with the police only adds insult to injury. I understand some people reading this will think, but what about all the other killings being committed?

Other than murders that occur during the heat of passion, most murders are committed by criminals participating in illegal or illicit behavior. They do not have the public trust and most people when being approached on the street by a stranger has a heightened sense of awareness and mentally sizes up the stranger to determine the appropriate level of precaution. When threatened by a stranger or criminal, a person may take defensive action to protect themselves. 

A person doesn't feel a sense of obligation to engage with a stranger and can therefore avoid some potentially dangerous situations. However, a police officer has public trust and more importantly government sanctioned authority over you and openly carries a weapon. A person feels compelled to follow the instructions and direction of a police office and therefore will automatically interact with the police officer, even during a chance encounter on the street.

When a person feels threatened by a police officer, they are less likely to take defensive actions; and even if they did, most likely the police version or assessment of the situation will be believed over the citizen's. If a person uses deadly force to protect them self from a rouge officer, that person will certainly be charged with murder. The only viable option available to an innocent person being threatened by a police officer is the flee, however, that very act of running away will be used to justify deadly force against them.

Below is a longer version of the video of Mr. Scott being killed. After you watch it, I want you to consider whether most people, including yourself, would have believed the officer's version that his life was in danger, if this video didn't exist.

 

Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina, urged state and federal officials to start a broad probe into North Charleston police policies, training and allegations of racial profiling. Past calls for such an investigation have been met with no response, she said.

Update: 4-9-2015

The dash cam video from Michael Slager's squad car was released today. The video shows Walter Scott, exiting and running. Based upon what's visible in the dash cam video, there doesn't appear to be any apparent reason for Mr. Scott to take of running the way he did. The dash cam indicates that Slager's approach and demeanor appear to be appropriate. Mr. Scott running the way he did certainly appears to have escalated the situation and it will certainly be argued that he would still be alive if he had not run. There appears to be a passenger in the car with Mr. Scott and hopefully he will be able to provide some reason or explanation for Mr. Scott's behavior. Based solely on the dash cam, Mr. Scott made a poor decision and was in the wrong. However, what has been shown in the shooting video, Mr. Slager made a worse decision and there was no justification for a trained police officer to use deadly force in that situation and in that manner. Mr. Slager certainly new the dash cam video would have supported his lie about believing himself to be in danger.

 

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