Jury visits site where ex-South Carolina policeman fatally shot an unarmed black motorist
A South Carolina jury on Wednesday visited the empty lot where a white North Charleston police officer fatally shot an unarmed black motorist who was running away from him, taking in a final bit of evidence in the officer’s murder trial.
The former officer, 35-year-old Michael Slager, testified on Tuesday that he was afraid when he shot and killed 50-year-old Walter Scott, who prosecutors said fled a traffic stop because he was behind on child-support payments and feared he might be arrested.
The April 4, 2015, incident began when Slager stopped Scott’s car for a broken tail light and Scott fled. Slager gave chase, first firing a Taser stun gun at the fleeing man and then drawing his firearm after a tussle.
Millions of Americans have seen a video of the incident taken by a bystander and posted online, which shows Slager repeatedly shooting Scott in the back.
It came amid a wave of controversial police killings of black men in cities including New York, Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, and inflamed a U.S. debate on race and justice.
Slager was fired three days following the shooting, arrested and charged with murder.
The U.S. Department of Justice in May ruled that Slager used excessive force and had no legal justification to shoot Scott as he was fleeing.
Defense attorneys and prosecutors have rested their case and Judge Clifton Newman told the jury of 11 white people and one black person that they would hear closing arguments beginning at 1 p.m. EST (1800 GMT) on Wednesday.
Slager testified on Tuesday that he had been afraid during the confrontation and had followed his police training when he continued to shoot Scott until be believed he no longer represented a threat to his safety.
The account by Slager offered a different view from what state prosecutors argue was captured by the bystander’s footage of the incident.
Prosecutors contend Slager did not appear to be in danger when he hit Scott with five shots. The site of the shooting, which jurors traveled to on Wednesday, is about 11 miles (18 km) from the courthouse where Slager’s trial is taking place.
Under cross-examination, a prosecutor accused Slager of changing his story at times. Slager acknowledged that some things clear on the video were not known to him as the incident unfolded.
(Additional reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Florida; Editing by Scott Malone and Tom Brown)