South Carolina policeman charged with murder

(CNN)A South Carolina officer has been charged with murder after a video surfaced that appears to show him shooting an unarmed man who was running away.

Michael Slager, an officer with the North Charleston Police Department, was arrested Tuesday, according to a statement from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, or SLED. If found guilty of murder, he could face up to life in prison or death.

The shooting took place Saturday after a traffic stop, SLED said. Video obtained by The New York Times shows what happened.

A black man breaks away from the white officer. Something falls, and the officer fires eight shots at the man as he runs away. The man, who appears to be unarmed, drops to the ground.

\"I can tell you that as the result of that video and the bad decision made by our officer, he will be charged with murder,\" North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey told reporters Tuesday. \"When you're wrong, you're wrong. And if you make a bad decision -- don't care if you're behind the shield or just a citizen on the street -- you have to live by that decision.\"

CNN affiliate WCIV identified the victim as 50-year-old Walter Scott. His family spoke to WCIV over the weekend, before the officer was arrested, describing Scott as a good man who was about to be married.

\"All we want is the truth, and we'll go any length to get that so that my brother can rest in peace,\" Anthony Scott told the affiliate.

According to WCIV, Slager initially said through his attorney, David Aylor, that he followed the appropriate policies and procedures. Aylor later told CNN that he no longer represents the officer, and it was unclear whether Slager had obtained new representation.

The Justice Department released a statement Tuesday saying it would \"take appropriate action in light of the evidence and developments in the state case.\"

\"The South Carolina Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened an investigation concurrent with the S.C. Law Enforcement Division and are providing aid as necessary to the state investigation. The Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the South Carolina U.S. Attorney's Office will work with the FBI in the investigation,\" it read.

North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers, who spoke to CNN's \"Erin Burnett OutFront,\" described the shooting as tragic.

He said the incident began when the officer stopped Scott for driving with a brake light being out.

When asked whether he thought race played a role in what happened, Driggers did not rule it out.

The fatal shooting was the latest in a string of controversial deaths involving white officers and black suspects. The death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, touched off protests and sparked a nationwide debate over race and policing. Brown, an unarmed black teen, was shot by Darren Wilson, a white officer, last August.

\"I want to believe in my heart of hearts that it was a tragic set of events after a traffic stop,\" Driggers said. \"I always look for the good in folks, and so I would hope that nobody would ever do something like that.\"
Share this article: