April 14, 2015
A white South Carolina policeman charged with murder for shooting a black man in the back as he fled after a traffic stop will not face the death penalty if convicted, a prosecutor said on Monday.
None of the circumstances that allow lethal punishment apply in the April 4 shooting of 50-year-old Walter Scott by North Charleston patrolman Michael Slager, said Scarlett Wilson, Charleston County's chief prosecutor.
"Based on the facts revealed thus far, it does not appear South Carolina's death penalty provision applies in this case because there are no statutory 'aggravating circumstances' present," Wilson said in a statement.
Such factors include murders committed during a kidnapping, robbery, drug trafficking, or with poison or physical torture.
In a police dashboard camera video published by the local Post and Courier newspaper on Monday, Slager can be heard laughing after the shooting and telling a fellow officer his adrenaline was "pumping".
Scott's death reignited a public outcry over police treatment of minorities that flared last year after the killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, and elsewhere.
North Charleston fired Slager last week after he was charged with murder. A cellphone video showed him shooting at Scott's back eight times as he ran away.
Before joining the North Charleston Police Department in 2009, Slager attended Lenape Regional High School in Medford, Burlington County, and worked as a waiter in Voorhees, his personnel file shows. He then served in the U.S. Coast Guard for six years.
Slager, who was being held in Charleston County jail, could face 30 years to life in prison if convicted.
The Post and Courier also reported that Pierre Fulton, who was riding in Scott's car during the stop, said he didn't know why Scott fled, but defended his friend.
"I'll never know why he ran, but I know he didn't deserve to die," he said in a statement released by his attorney, Mark Peper, to the newspaper.
Slager is also accused of using excessive force during an August 2014 traffic stop in North Charleston in a lawsuit filed April 10 by Julius Wilson. Wilson, who is also black, was stopped for driving with a broken taillight, the same offense Scott was pulled over for the day he died.
Wilson says Slager and two other officers pulled him from his vehicle, restrained him face-down on the pavement and Slager fired a stun gun into his back.
A spokesman for the North Charleston police department declined to comment.
Separately in Baltimore, a man was in critical condition on Monday after being arrested by several police officers, officials said. Footage from that incident published by a local broadcaster showed the man was black.