The North Charleston Shooting Isn't Ferguson
What will the cop's defense be? Murder charges against officers for shootings are rare.
By Matt Pearce
Like the fatal Aug. 9, 2014, police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., the Saturday shooting of Walter Lamar Scott in North Charleston, S.C., has already gained national attention and stirred outrage.
Although the cases have some similarities, they also have stark and crucial differences.
Race: Both Michael Brown, 18, and Walter Lamar Scott, 50, were black. The officers who killed them, Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson and North Charleston Officer David Slager, are white.
An innocuous stop turned deadly: Brown was stopped by Wilson for walking in the street. Scott was reportedly pulled over for a faulty brake light. A close-quarters encounter: Both the shootings in Ferguson and in North Charleston happened after an encounter or scuffle at close range, which resulted in both Brown and Scott running from police. Both encounters were one-on-one.
Unarmed: Neither Brown nor Scott were apparently armed when they were killed. The video doesn't show Slager's encounter with Scott in its entirety, so it's not immediately clear what role the stun gun may have played before Scott began running. Slager said he shot Scott because Scott tried to take his stun gun, but the video shows Slager shooting as Scott runs away.
No body cameras: Neither officer had body cameras.
Video: No direct video of Brown's shooting ever emerged, and a wilderness of witness testimony gave conflicting accounts of whether Brown was charging at Wilson or surrendering with his hands up _ a claim federal investigators ultimately called into doubt. In Scott's case, an anonymous bystander's video clearly showed Slager shooting at the man as he was running away.
Stun gun: Wilson didn't have a stun gun (he said later that he didn't carry such a device because it was uncomfortable to wear). Slager did have a stun gun. Some observers think it may be the object that Slager can be seen dropping near Scott's body shortly after the shooting. Shot in the front, shot in the back: Brown was shot at least six times, mostly in the front of his body, with one bullet entering the top of his head apparently as he fell. Video shows Slager firing seven times as Scott runs away, then firing an eighth round as Scott slumps to the ground.
Criminal charges: After months of investigation and deliberation, neither a grand jury nor federal officials found probable cause to charge Wilson with any of a variety of criminal charges for Brown's death. Officials in South Carolina filed a murder charge against Slager three days after Scott's shooting.
What did the other officer see? No other police officers said they saw Wilson shooting Brown. In Scott's death, video shows another officer arriving by Scott's side almost immediately after Slager shoots the man; Slager is standing by the other officer when he drops the object by Scott's body.
What will Slager's defense be? Murder charges against officers for shootings are rare, and Slager is presumed innocent until proven guilty. His first attorney, David Aylor _ who initially issued the officer's statement claiming Scott wrestled for control of his stun gun _ no longer represents him.
Who was the bystander? The onlooker who recorded video of Scott's shooting still hasn't been identified and hasn't given their account of what happened.
(c)2015 Los Angeles Times