(Reuters) - A South Carolina man emerged on Thursday to say that the high-profile, videotaped shooting death of another black man by a police officer vindicated his own complaint of abuse against the same officer nearly two years ago that was dismissed after a brief investigation.
"If they had really listened to me and investigated, then that man would probably have been alive because he wouldn't be an officer in the field," Mario Givens said at a press conference with his lawyer.
The lawyer said they planned to file a lawsuit over the September 2013 case involving officer Michael Slager, 33, who was charged Tuesday with murder and has lost his job after he shot 50-year-old Walter Scott in the back following a traffic stop in North Charleston, a town of about 100,000 people.
Givens had accused Slager of slamming him on the ground, dragging him and using a stun gun on him "for no reason." Slager had gone to Givens' home in search of a burglary suspect, and a physical struggle ensued between the two men as the officer tried to detain Givens, according to police records.
Another officer at the scene said Slager was forced to use his stun gun to get Givens to comply with his orders, and an internal police review did not find any wrongdoing, police records show.
After the shooting of Scott on Saturday, Slager said he fired his weapon because Scott had taken his stun gun and he feared for his life.
Scott does not appear armed at any point, however, in the footage filmed by a bystander, though the video made public does not show the initial contact between the men.
An autopsy found Scott had multiple gunshot wounds on the back of his body.
Civil rights leaders urged the South Carolina legislature on Thursday to "stop dragging its feet" on a pending measure that would require all law enforcement officers to wear cameras on their uniforms, echoing calls by the White House and elected officials across the United States following a string of police shootings of unarmed black men in the past year.
"It will lessen the chance that any more black men will be used for target practice as Mr. Scott was," said Dot Scott, president of the Charleston chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The funeral for Scott, a father of four who had a history of arrests for failing to pay child support, will be held on Saturday in Summerville, his family said.
According to a police report, Scott had a passenger in his car when he was pulled over on Saturday. That person was detained by another officer who arrived at the scene.
It was not immediately clear what the passenger witnessed or whether the person remains in police custody. A spokesman for Scott's family said they were aware someone had been in the car with him but know nothing about the person.
Slager has retained prominent Charleston lawyer Andy Savage to defend him, court records show. Savage's previous clients included convicted al Qaeda operative Ali al-Marri.
"As we focus in on the facts, we will probably have more to say, but it is far too early for us to be saying what we think," Savage said in a statement.
No one answered a knock at Slager's home on Thursday in the neighboring city of Hanahan. One neighbor said Slager and his wife, who is eight months pregnant, had only recently moved into the tidy house with wisteria blooming out front.
Several neighbors described the couple as quiet and said they did not know much about Slager beyond having seen him on the street in his police cruiser.
"Nobody around here actually knew him," said Larry Cassavaw, a 68-year-old retiree who lives several houses away from Slager. "I couldn't tell you if he's a good guy, a bad guy or what."
Before joining the North Charleston Police Department in 2009, Slager attended high school in Medford, New Jersey, and worked as a waiter in Voorhees, New Jersey, his personnel file shows. He then served in the U.S. Coast Guard for six years.
The Coast Guard said he was stationed in Port Canaveral, Florida, with the junior rank of fireman at the time of his honorable discharge. (Additional reporting by Laila Kearney in New York; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Grant McCool)
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