Testimony Heats Up in Walter Scott Shooting Trial

Former North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager, right, sits in a Charleston, S.C., courtroom. Grace Beahm/Post and Courier via AP, Pool, File.

As testimony entered a fourth day in the trial of a White former South Carolina policeman in the shooting death of an unarmed Black motorist, North Charleston investigators took the stand to say they had been on the scene of the incident, but let state investigators do the work of collecting evidence.

“I didn’t want there to be any appearance an of impropriety,” said former investigator Scott Wyant during his testimony, according to the Charleston Post and Courier. He said along with investigator Jackie Ong, he was ordered by Chief Eddie Driggers to perform a gunshot residue on the hands of officer Michael Slager, who had shot and killed Walter Scott in April 2015 after a routine traffic stop. Wyant said State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) officials usually do that job.

SLED did a crime scene investigation, but Wyant did not participate. Ong, who had been in training did follow them, the Post and Courier said. In her testimony, she mentioned Scott’s body looked as though it had received medical attention, but barbs from a taser he had been shot with were still in his back. Slager had said that Scott had tried to take his taser, but cellphone video shows him shooting Scott as he tried to flee.

On Monday, police officers testified there are various levels of force officers can use to get suspects to comply. The lowest level being just their presence wearing a uniform which can be followed by voice commands, use of force and eventually deadly force.

North Charleston police Sgt. James Gann, who responded to the scene following the shooting, testified shooting someone in the back is not part of any officer’s training. He said the video of Scott running away from Slager indicated to him that Scott was trying to ease the level of confrontation.

“Through the video I would agree that he would be deescalating,” a situation in which an officer would have been taught then to use less force, Gann testified.

Responding to questions from Slager’s attorney Andy Savage, he agreed Slager had no way to know if Scott was armed and was running to get behind a tree and fire back.

He also testified Scott showed no sign he was surrendering and that there was no way Slager, in a few split seconds, could know Scott’s intentions.

Gann also testified Slager was no hothead and had “always been even keeled.”

Slager faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted of murder in the April 2015 shooting death of Scott.