Former Officer Michael Slager, the South Carolina cop who was caught on film murdering Walter Scott from behind as he ran away, was also indicted two weeks ago by a federal grand jury. The new federal charges are in addition to the state-level charges he already faces for the shooting of Scott. Although it is incredibly unlikely to happen or even be sought, these charges also bring with them the possibility of a death penalty sentence should Slager be convicted.
Michael Slager, who was fired by the North Charleston Police Department after last year’s killing of Walter Scott, was indicted on charges of violating civil rights laws, using a firearm in committing a crime of violence, and obstructing justice in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man.
“This is historic,” the Scott family’s lawyer, Chris Stewart, said afterward. “What happened today is that the federal government says it stops now. Police brutality stops now.”
Slager is white. Scott was black. And the message sent by the grand jury is not aimed at the good cops, Stewart said.
“This is a message to the ones who abuse people in this country,” he said.
In the aftermath of Scott’s death, police departments in South Carolina and across the U.S. are adopting body cameras and embracing reform, Stewart said.
“Walter Scott did not die in vain.” he said.
“It’s a bittersweet day,” added Scott’s brother, Anthony. “If it wasn’t for that video camera…. we would not be here today.”
“I’m happy for that, but I’m sad because my son is gone,” she said. “I pray that other mothers won’t go through what I have been going through.”
Slager, according to the indictment, misled investigators by falsely claiming that Scott was coming at him with a Taser when he fired his gun.
“In truth … Slager repeatedly fired his weapon at Scott when Scott was running away from him,” the indictment reads.
Slager fired eight times at Scott, who was 50 and whose deadly encounter with the cop began after a traffic stop.
One of the charges filed against Slager — depriving someone of their civil rights under color of law — carries a maximum penalty of death. In the federal system, a decision about whether to actually seek the death penalty will come later.
Personally, I wish I could share in the enthusiasm that the family’s lawyer feels for this. It’s certainly good that another set of charges are being filed, therefore making it that much less likely that Slager will be given the Home Field Advantage cops invariably receive and walk free or at least receive the typical Policeman’s Discount and get nothing but a slap on the wrist and a stern talking to. However, history has yet to prove that the Federal Government or any other level of statist governance is prepared to say, “it stops now. Police brutality stops now.”
Keep those cameras rolling.