Authorities in South Carolina have released dash cam video in connection with the fatal shooting of Walter Scott, but the footage does not show the actual shooting.
Video from the patrol car of North Charleston’s Michael Slager shows an initial traffic stop and early interactions between the officer and Scott.
Slager approaches Scott’s vehicle. The two men speak. Scott tells the officer he does not have insurance and is in the process of purchasing the vehicle. Slager then returns to his patrol car.
Scott exits his vehicle, briefly, and Slager tells him to stay in the car. Scott then gets out of the car, again, and runs away, out of the range of the dash cam.
The video, which was released Thursday, also shows a passenger in Scott’s car.
The passenger’s identity was not given in a police report obtained by CNN, but another officer responding to the incident said in the report that the passenger was detained and placed in the back seat of a police vehicle.
Scott family attorney Chris Stewart told CNN the man with Scott was a co-worker and friend. He did not identify the friend by name.
When asked what might have motivated Scott to run, Justin Bamberg, another attorney for the family, speculated that Scott might have been concerned about child support issues.
Scott owed back payments on child support totaling $18,104.43, according to Charleston County family court documents obtained by CNN. He had a bench warrant issued against him for failure to pay at the time he was stopped by Slager.
But Bamberg was adamant the dash cam video does not alter what happened.
“This dash cam footage does not change the fact that at the moment the officer shot and killed Mr. Scott — that shooting was completely unjustified. And that is the key point of both the criminal investigation and the civil lawsuit,” the lawyer said.
The North Charleston Police Department is not providing more information, citing an ongoing investigation of Scott’s killing that’s being conducted by the independent South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED).
‘Shots fired and the subject is down’
Many questions remain about what happened on Saturday when Officer Slager pulled Scott over for what police have said was a broken taillight.
In the police report that CNN obtained, a responding officer said that Slager said that at one point he started to chase Scott down a street. “Shots fired and the subject is down,” the officer writes that Slager said. “He took my Taser.”
But a witness who shot cell phone video of the incident says he never saw Scott try to get Slager’s Taser.
Feidin Santana was walking to work when he saw Slager and Scott struggle on the ground, he told NBC’s Lester Holt on Wednesday. Santana then took out his phone and started recording video.
“I remember the police (officer) had control of the situation. He had control of Scott,” Santana said. Then, Santana said, he heard the sound of a Taser.
It seemed to Santana that Scott was trying to get away and avoid being zapped with the Tasered again.
On Thursday, a second witness spoke to CNN about what she saw. Gwen Nichols said she was in the neighborhood when she heard police cars speeding by and, curious, she followed them.
She saw Scott and Slager at the entrance to a vacant lot.
“It was like a tussle type of thing, like, you know, like, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘What did I do?’ type of thing,” said Nichols, who said she has not yet talked to police about what she saw.
“I didn’t hear Mr. Slager saying: ‘Stop!’ ” she said.
Man pondered not revealing the video
Feidin showed the video to the Scott family. But Santana has said fear for his own life almost kept him from revealing the tape.
In interviews with MSNBC and NBC, Santana recalled the moments when he recorded the video.
“I … thought about erasing the video,” Santana told MSNBC’s “All in With Chris Hayes” in an interview that aired Wednesday evening. “I felt that my life, with this information, might be in danger.”
The video shows Slager shooting eight times at Scott as Scott runs away.
An autopsy showed that Scott suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the back of his body.
Before the officer starts firing his gun in the video, a dark object falls behind him and hits the ground. It’s not clear whether that is the Taser.
Later in the video, when the officer approaches Scott’s body, he drops a dark object next to the man. It’s also not clear whether that is the Taser.
It’s unknown whether Scott took the officer’s Taser or whether the officer picked the object up and moved it closer to the body.
Slager has been fired and charged with murder. He is white. Scott, who was unarmed, was black.
Reminders of the Ferguson case
Scott’s shooting stirred memories of the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri, where an unarmed black teenager was killed by a white police officer. A grand jury declined to indict the officer in that case. But not everyone agreed that Scott’s case is like Brown’s or that race was a factor.
Asked how he felt about Slager being charged with murder, Santana answered that “no one can feel happy.”
“He has his family, and Mr. Scott also has his family,” he told Holt. “But I think, you know, he made a bad decision. … Mr. Scott didn’t deserve this. And there were other ways that can be used to get him arrested. And that wasn’t the proper way to do that.”
The FBI is investigating, as is SLED.
“I have watched the video, and I was sickened by what I saw,” North Charleston police Chief Eddie Driggers told reporters Wednesday.
Mayor Keith Summey spoke at the same news conference, which was repeatedly interrupted by protesters who chanted: “No justice! No peace!” They called for the mayor to step down.
Summey said that the city has ordered an additional 150 body cameras “so every officer on the street” in the city will have one. That is in addition to 101 body cameras already ordered, he said.
Just before the conference was set to begin, demonstrators walked in. They were led by a man wearing a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt who shouted, “This is what democracy looks like!”
2010 census data show that North Charleston is 47% black and 42% white. The makeup of the city’s Police Department is unclear, though it’s been widely reported that 2007 federal figures indicated it was about 80% black. Three of 10 City Council members are black.
It’s unclear what Slager’s motivation was, or if race played a part in Scott’s slaying.
“We can’t get into the brain of another individual, so we can’t state that,” Scott family attorney Stewart said. “I think it would be irresponsible to say that and try and inflame a community or anything of that nature.”
If convicted, Slager could face life in prison or the death penalty.
An autopsy of Scott showed that he “sustained multiple gunshot wounds to the back of his body,” and his death was the result of a homicide, the Charleston County Coroner’s Office said.
Asked whether CPR was performed on Scott after Slager shot him, Driggers said: “In the end of it (the video), what I saw was (what I) believed to be a police officer removing the shirt of the individual and performing some type of life-saving (procedure), but I’m not sure what took place there.”
When Scott’s brother Anthony saw the video, he was convinced Slager’s account of what happened was not true, he told CNN.
“There was not a struggle for the Taser,” Anthony Scott said. “I didn’t believe my brother would have done that anyway.”
To Anthony Scott, the videotape shows his brother was “running for his life” away from the officer.
“I think my brother was thinking he was not going to be shot, no one would have thought that,” Scott said.
Family members have adamantly repeated that they don’t want protests over Scott’s slaying to become violent.
And, so far, the demonstrations have been passionate but peaceful.
Scott’s mother, Judy Scott, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that she feels “forgiveness in my heart, even for the guy that shot and killed my son.”
“He was a loving son, a loving father,” she said. “He cared about his family and … no matter what happens, it will not replace my son.”