Last weekend a cop shot of a fleeing unarmed black man in Charleston, SC.  

Not all the facts are in, but the video (apparently captured by a cell phone) is damning; it shows the cop firing at the fleeing black man several times, finally bringing him to the ground.  There seems little indication that the fleeing man represented an imminent threat to anyone, much less the police officer. It also appears that the cop planted his Taser beside the man’s body.


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The NY Times reports:

A white police officer in North Charleston, S.C., was charged with murder on Tuesday after a video surfaced showing him shooting in the back and killing an apparently unarmed black man while the man ran away.

The officer, Michael T. Slager, 33, said he had feared for his life because the man had taken his stun gun in a scuffle after a traffic stop on Saturday. A video, however, shows the officer firing eight times as the man, Walter L. Scott, 50, fled. The North Charleston mayor announced the state charges at a news conference Tuesday evening.

Here’s the full video:

The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

That looks to me like the gears of the justice system and due process working properly to prosecute a bad cop (or at least a cop using very, very bad judgment).

[PHOTO: Michael Slager is seen in a booking photo released by the Charleston County Sheriff's office on April 7, 2015.]

[PHOTO: Michael Slager is seen in a booking photo released by the Charleston County Sheriff’s office on April 7, 2015.]

Unfortunately, the comparisons to the Michael Brown shooting have started. But the two appear to have nothing in common. After exhaustive investigation, including by the Justice Department, Darren Wilson was exonerated of accusations he used excessive force. All the forensics and the credible eyewitness testimony supported Wilson’s account of what happened.

In the Walter Scott killing, the video may be decisive, but even without the video the forensics should have proven the cop’s account was untrue, and that Scott was shot in the back from considerable distance. But that sort of analysis would have taken longer.

The local community appears to be acting calmly:

Pastor Thomas Dixon, a community activist, said that he is concerned about outsiders coming into the community to incite violence. He said the outcry of anger so often ends up “tearing down our communities,” and emotions should be diverted to something more constructive than violence.

“Good people get caught up with crazy people,” he said. “The smart reaction is to just gather and peacefully let your voice be heard without any foolishness or craziness.”

North Charleston Councilman Ron Brinson said the officer’s arrest was “sad, sad news” for the city.

“We need to do everything we can to remember this family,” he said, “to remember all of our policemen and make sure as a city that we can learn and move on.”

What comes next? Al Sharpton?

Naturally, we’ll cover the story here.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense


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Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle). He also holds Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and provides free online self-defense law video lectures at the Law of Self Defense Institute and podcasts through iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere.