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North Charleston Police
Do you think that the North Charleston Police Department has taken appropriate steps towards reform a year after the Walter Scott shooting?
Order in the Court
12/23/2016 11:03:42 AM

James Johnson
By James Johnson 

Foremost, I must express my deepest condolences to the entire Scott family as they continue to grieve the loss of their beloved Walter Scott and seek justice on his behalf. It is with the utmost respect to you all that I pen these words. My sole intention is to generate much needed dialogue in regards to racial profiling, police brutality, and the obvious flaws and biases of America’s judicial system. I pray that you all continue to be comforted and remain steadfast.

Regardless of the perspective from which one views this case, the truth of the matter remains—former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager failed to uphold his oath “to serve and to protect” when he fired eight shots at the unarmed Walter Scott. Unfortunately, Scott succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene after being struck in the back by five of the eight bullets fired by Slager. This tragedy left countless unanswered questions. The city and citizens of North Charleston would never be the same.

Initially Slager claimed Scott managed to take his taser away from him and was coming towards him with the taser when he shot him.
However, cellphone video footage captured by Feidin Santana (who was walking to work at the time of the incident) emerged a few days after the shooting and clearly shows Slager taking aim and firing his weapon at Scott as he ran away from the officer. Slager made no attempt to chase Scott as he ran away, but instead chose to utilize lethal force to subdue the unarmed Scott. After the shooting Slager can be seen retrieving an object (believed to be his taser) from the ground and dropping it near Scott who was clinging to life at the time.

Thanks to the surfacing of the damning video footage Slager was arrested on April 7, 2015 and charged with murder. North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey gave the following statement in regards to the incident, “As a result of that video and bad decisions made by our officer, he will be charged with murder.” April 8, 2015 the North Charleston City Manager announced that the North Charleston Police Department (NCPD) was terminating Slager’s employment. Slager remained incarcerated at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center until January 4, 2016 when he was released on $500,000 bond and confined to house-arrest until his trial date.

Early-on there were also calls for the prosecution of Clarence W. Habersham, Jr. Habersham was the second NCPD Officer seen in the bystander video footage after Scott had been shot. Allegedly he made false statements and excluded vital information from his report in what was perceived as an attempt to aid Slager in a cover-up. He also claimed to have administered first-aid to Scott as they awaited the arrival of paramedics. However, the video captured by Santana clearly contradicts that.

After much controversy regarding jury selection opening arguments in Slager’s murder trial began on November 3, 2016. Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson asserted that Slager acted with malice and forethought, lied about the events preceding the shooting and staged the crime scene by dropping his taser near Scott’s body. Defense Attorney Andy Savage countered the prosecution by highlighting the dangers police officers face on the job on a daily basis.

In recent weeks I’ve reviewed Santana’s video of the shooting countless times. Each time I see Slager draw his weapon, take aim and fire those eight shots at Scott as he ran away. If that doesn’t constitute malice and forethought then maybe I should research the definition of those two words, because in my opinion Walter Scott was hunted by Slager like a predator chasing his prey. Slager saw Scott as nothing more than game and was willing to go to any extent to capture him dead or alive.

After a lengthy, emotional trial, and approximately 22 hours of deliberation the jury still failed to reach a verdict. One juror made the following statements in a letter to the court, “I cannot in good conscience consider a guilty verdict. I cannot and will not change my mind.” As a result of the deadlock on December 5, 2016 Judge Clifton Newman declared a mistrial. This wasn’t the outcome the Scott family and their supporters anticipated. Although Solicitor Wilson vowed Slager would be retried, emotions ran high as the news of the mistrial made headlines across America. Protestors took to the streets and social media almost immediately expressing their outrage over the lack of justice.

It’s uncertain when Slager will be retried for Scott’s murder. He’s currently awaiting trial on federal charges for violating Scott’s civil rights, using a firearm during the commission of a civil rights offense and obstruction of justice.

The fact that a retrial is even necessary in 2016 speaks volumes about our flawed judicial system and the current state of race relations in America.

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