BLACK VOICES

'We Are One': Protesters Decry Racism After South Carolina Officer Shoots Unarmed Black Man

04/08/2015 11:33 am ET | Updated Jun 08, 2015

* Protest rally over white officer's shooting of black man

* Shooting captured on video and officer charged with murder

* Latest among several high-profile shootings in United States (Rewrites throughout with protests over shooting; changes dateline to North Charleston)

By Harriet McLeod

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C., April 8 (Reuters) - Demonstrators rallied on Wednesday against what they described as a culture of police brutality in South Carolina in the case of a white officer caught on video killing a black man by shooting him in the back as the man ran away after a traffic stop.

Holding signs that read "The whole world is watching" and "Back turned, don't shoot," dozens of protesters in North Charleston said the death of 50-year-old Walter Scott on Saturday should not be viewed as an isolated incident.

"There is an atmosphere of racism in North Charleston, and we need to get rid of it," said Ramon Roane, 52, one of the speakers who gave examples of what they called unfair treatment by city police and leaders amid chants of "No more! No more!" by the crowd.

Police officer Michael Slager was charged on Tuesday with murder in the death of Scott, the latest among several shootings over the past year, including in New York, Ferguson, Missouri, Cleveland, Ohio and other places. The shootings have stirred debate across the United States about police use of lethal force and race relations, also drawing President Barack Obama into the discussion.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice are investigating Scott's shooting. Civil rights leaders have called for calm, and many people praised the courage of the witness who filmed the killing and gave the video to Scott's family.

"When I saw it, I fell to my feet and my heart was broken," Scott's father, Walter Scott Sr., said on NBC's "Today" show on Wednesday.

Without the video, he said, "It would have never come to light. They would have swept it under the rug, like they did with so many others."

The shooting was the 11th involving a police officer in South Carolina this year and the second in North Charleston, said Thom Berry, spokesman for the state's law enforcement division. No one was injured in the prior incident in the city in January, he said.

Police said Saturday's shooting occurred after Slager, 33, who joined the department in 2009, stopped Scott for a broken brake light.

The video shows a brief scuffle between the pair before Scott begins to run away. Slager is then seen taking aim with a handgun before shooting eight times at Scott's back. Scott then slumps facedown onto the grass.

According to a police report, Slager told other officers Scott had taken his stun gun from him.

At no point in the video, which does not show the initial contact between the men, does Scott appear to be armed.

Slager is seen placing the victim in handcuffs as he lies on the ground, and then the officer walks back to a spot near where he opened fire.

The video then shows him appearing to pick something up, return to Scott, and then drop it next to him on the ground.

FAMILY PLANS LAWSUIT

Slager is being held without bond on a murder charge that could carry the death penalty, according to court records.

Scott's family plans to file a lawsuit against Slager, the department and the city with allegations that his civil rights were violated, said Chris Stewart, a lawyer for the family.

Meanwhile, the person who filmed the video is speaking with investigators and will come forward publicly "at some point," Stewart said.

The shooting took place in North Charleston, which is home to about 100,000 people, nearly half of whom are black, 2010 U.S. Census data shows.

By contrast, only about 18 percent of its police department's roughly 340 officers are black, the local Post and Courier newspaper reported last year.

Scott's brother, Anthony Scott, said his late sibling, a father of four, served two years in the U.S. Coast Guard and was an ardent fan of the Dallas Cowboys NFL team.

According to the Post and Courier, Walter Scott had a warrant out for his arrest from family court. His arrest history, mostly for contempt of court charges for failing to pay child support, included one accusation of a violation stemming from an assault and battery charge in 1987, the newspaper reported.

Slager, also formerly a member of the Coast Guard, had not previously been disciplined by the department, the Post and Courier said. The paper reported that in 2013 a man accused him of shooting him with a stun gun without cause, but that Slager was cleared of wrongdoing by an internal police investigation. (Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Grant McCool)

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Muhiydin D'Baha leads a group protesting the shooting death of Walter Scott at city hall in North Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, April 8, 2015. Scott was killed by a North Charleston police office after a traffic stop on Saturday. The officer, Michael Thomas Slager, has been charged with murder. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
  • Richard Ellis via Getty Images
    A family friend of Walter Scott, who was killed by police in a shooting, breaks down during a rally outside City Hall on April 8, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Video captured by a bystander showed officer Michael Slager shooting Scott as he ran away. Officer Slager has been charged with murder as a result of the incident.
  • DanMichenerWCIV / Twitter
  • wesleylowery / Instagram
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Robert Jackson holds a sign during a protest in shooting death of Walter Scott at city hall in North Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, April 8, 2015. Scott was killed by a North Charleston police office after a traffic stop on Saturday. The officer, Michael Thomas Slager, has been charged with murder. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
  • Richard Ellis via Getty Images
    People participate in a rally to protest the death of Walter Scott, who was killed by police in a shooting, outside City Hall on April 8, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Video captured by a bystander showed officer Michael Slager shooting Scott as he ran away. Officer Slager has been charged with murder as a result of the incident.
  • Richard Ellis via Getty Images
    People participate in a rally to protest the death of Walter Scott, who was killed by police in a shooting, outside City Hall on April 8, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Video captured by a bystander showed officer Michael Slager shooting Scott as he ran away. Officer Slager has been charged with murder as a result of the incident.
  • lapetitesylvie / Instagram
  • Richard Ellis via Getty Images
    People participate in a rally to protest the death of Walter Scott, who was killed by police in a shooting, outside City Hall on April 8, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Video captured by a bystander showed officer Michael Slager shooting Scott as he ran away. Officer Slager has been charged with murder as a result of the incident.
  • memo1030 / Instagram
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