Cop in Walter Scott Shooting Takes Stand

Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager gestures as he testifies at trial. Grace Beahm/Post and Courier via AP, Pool

Former North Charleston, S.C., policeman Michael Slager took the stand Tuesday inside of a Charleston County courtroom to deliver his account of the traffic stop that ended in the shooting death of motorist Walter Scott in April 2015.

At times he choked back tears insisting that Scott took his Taser and pointed it at him, and that he felt in “total fear” of what would happen next.

“He rips it out of my hand,” Slager testified, demonstrating the position he said he was in. “I knew I was in trouble,” adding that Scott “was extending his right arm, leaning forward and coming at me.”

Slager, 35, kept most of his answers short as the prosecution team probed him about the moments leading up to the shooting, the alleged scuffle, and his spotty recollection.

“I don’t remember dropping the Taser… I don’t remember Walter Scott tackling me, I don’t remember the ground fight,” he said. “Certain things, I don’t remember.”

Durant responded to Slager by telling the defendant his memory of the day seems to be fine, except during the events that are “bad for you.”

When Durant opted to show the courtroom the cell phone footage recorded at the scene by a bystander, Slager was asked to step down from the stand to recreate the distance from which he had fired Scott and respond to whether Scott was actually a threat to him with his back turned at nearly 18 feet away.

Slager, who is White, remained firm in his stance that he felt threatened by Scott, who is African-American, although he was running away. He told the jury, Scott “wasn’t complying the whole scenario.”

He said he had pulled Scott over for a broken taillight, and was preparing to write him a warning ticket when Scott bolted from his car, ran down a road and into a vacant lot.

“In my mind at that time was, people don’t run for a broken taillight. There’s always another reason,” he testified. “I don’t know why he ran. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

He described yelling stop and “Taser! Taser! Taser!” as he caught up to Scott.

He said he shot his Taser three times, firing both sets of electric darts before using the emptied weapon near Scott’s skin in a so-called “dry stun.”

The cellphone video begins at roughly this point, showing Scott breaking away from what Slager said was their confrontation over the Taser.

“At that point I pulled my firearm and pulled the trigger,” he said. “I fired until the threat was stopped as I was trained to do.”

Slager did show remorse when cross-examined by the defense.

“My family has been destroyed by this,” he said, as tears dripped down his face. “Scott’s family has been destroyed by this. It’s horrible.”

Asked by defense attorney Andy Savage if he would do again what did in April 2015, Slager replied “that’s a hard question to answer.”

“I had to make a split-second decision” when Scott grabbed the Taser, Slager said.

But knowing what he knows now, he said he would not have chased Scott on foot in the first place: “Absolutely not. I would have called for backup,” he said.

The defense is expected to conclude its case this week. Slager has been charged with the 2015 murder of Scott during a traffic stop in which the ex-cop shot Scott five times as he fled. If convicted, Slager could face 30 years to life without parole in prison.

With Associated Press



Image: Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager gestures as he testifies at trial. Grace Beahm/Post and Courier via AP, Pool