US cop charged with murder hours after shooting fleeing man in back
A white South Carolina police officer has been charged with murder just hours after officials viewed a dramatic video that appears to show him shooting a fleeing black man several times in the back.
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey announced the charges at a news conference in which he said City Patrolman Michael Thomas Slager made "a bad decision".
Saturday's shooting, which began as a traffic stop over a faulty brake light, occurred as Americans grapple with issues of trust between law enforcement and minority communities after a series of deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police.
They include the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner on Staten Island, New York. Both sparked protests nationwide.
In the Charleston case, authorities said the victim, 50-year-old Walter Lamer Scott, was shot after the officer already hit him with a stun gun.
"When you're wrong, you're wrong," Summey said. "When you make a bad decision, don't care if you're behind the shield or a citizen on the street, you have to live with that decision."
A video of the shooting released to news media outlets shows the officer firing eight shots at Scott's back as Scott is running away. Scott falls on the eighth shot, fired after a brief pause. The video then shows the officer slowly walking towards him, and ordering him to put his hands behind his back.
When Scott doesn't move, Slager pulls his arms back and cuffs his hands. Then he walks briskly back to where he fired the shots, picks up an object, and returns to Scott before dropping the object by his feet.
Slager's then-attorney David Aylor had released a statement saying the officer felt threatened and that Scott was trying to grab Slager's stun gun. Aylor dropped Slager as a client after the video surfaced.
Attorney Chris Stewart, who represents the victim's family, said Scott may have tried to run from the officer because he owed child support, which can get someone sent to jail in South Carolina until they pay it back, Stewart said. He had four children, was engaged, had been honourably discharged from the Coast Guard and had no violent offences on his record, the attorney said.
The family plans to sue the police department.