A white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black motorist in the back in South Carolina last year was found to have lied to state agents about the shooting's circumstances, pre-trial testimony showed Friday.
The hearing was focused on filling in the gaps between Michael Slager’s official account of the April 4, 2015 shooting in North Charleston — he said Walter Scott grabbed his Taser and attacked him with it — when video evidence taken from a bystander shows that never happened, the Post and Courier reported.
The dashcam video from the traffic stop showed the two men talking before Scott, 50, got out of the car and ran, CNN reported. Then, Slager chased Scott roughly 200 yards from the traffic stop where the physical altercation was caught on tape showing Scott contrarily pivoting in order to run away.
All within a second's time, Slager opens fire. The video shows Scott was still running as Slager shot eight bullets. Five hit Scott, who was seen on video falling face first into grass.
When testifying at Friday's pretrial, Lt. Charles Ghent, who interviewed Slager directly after the incident, said he withheld the fact that he was aware of the shooting video's existence to get "both sides of the story." He found that the officer's account differed vastly from the video.
"There were several inconsistencies," Ghent said, not providing specifics. "There were parts of it where he did not tell the truth."
Slager’s attorneys argued that his client’s statement to state agents after he shot Scott should be disregarded because the agents told Slager’s original attorney that they had not seen the video of the shooting in court Friday, the Associated Press reported.
But a South Carolina judge ruled that police were allowed to be deceptive with suspects and attorneys when they question them as long as their rights have been read to them.
“What I’m really upset about is they lied to a lawyer,” Defense attorney Andy Savage said. “The lawyer is depending on integrity to give advice to his client.”
Scott was one of 968 people killed by the police in the U.S. in 2015, the Washington Post reported. Although black men represent 6 percent of the U.S. population, they made up 40 percent of those who were killed while unarmed. Black Americans are three times more likely to be killed by police than whites when adjusted for the populations where the shooting occurred.
After the Walter Scott killing, Black Lives Matters activists called for greater citizen oversight of the police.
“It is long past time to end the wave of terror against men of color in the US. The punishment for traffic violation is not death. Police officers are sworn to serve and protect...not to act as judge and jury in the street,” Reverend Jesse Jackson said in Charleston in the days following Scott’s killing. “We can start with S.C Rep. Gilliard's body camera legislation. We should also release internal affairs records of proven police misconduct and reform tort laws to make it easier to obtain civil judgments against cities that retain officers known to violate citizens' right to due process and equal protection under the law.”
The trial is slated to begin Monday.