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A black South Carolina man who last summer had a violent encounter with Michael Slager, the former officer charged with murdering Walter Scott last week, has now filed a lawsuit for the use of excessive force in the incident, which was caught on video.
Julius Garnett Wilson, 35, has filed suit against North Charleston, the city's police chief, Slager, and two other officers over an August incident in which Slager tased Wilson while he was on the ground outside of his car during a traffic stop. Slager made national headlines last week when it was announced he will face murder charges after video emerged of him fatally shooting Scott, an unarmed 50-year-old black man, eight times in the back while he was running away.
"In light of all of the recent events, we thought it important that we relook at the dashcam video that we had," Nicholas J. Clekis, one of Wilson's lawyers, said on Monday. "And the fact that this was not an isolated event for Officer Slager, we decided that we would go ahead and file this lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Wilson and everybody else in the community that may have been affected by this kind of behavior from the officers."
In the police dashboard video footage, Slager and officer Brad Woods are shown stopping Wilson over a broken tail light at a traffic light and telling him to step out of the vehicle. Wilson initially refuses to comply. Officer Brad Woods unbuckles his seat belt, and Slager then begins to drag Wilson out of the car before a third officer, Jerome Clemens, approaches and assists in removing Wilson from the car.
The officers are then seen in the video tossing Wilson onto the ground, handcuffing him, and jamming their knees into his back. Wilson, who was reportedly stopped for a broken taillight and charged with driving on a suspended license, has said that he stopped resisting the officers when he saw Woods reached for his firearm. The lawsuit states that Woods and Clemens were placing Wilson's hands behind his back when Slager said, "Watch out! I'm going to tase."
"In my lifetime, I have witnessed violent acts by police officers," Wilson told reporters. "Without proof of such acts, the word of police officers is always taken over the word of the victims forced to endure their violent acts."
Wilson's lawsuit cites the case of another resident, 34-year-old Mario Givens, who filed a complaint against Slager in 2013 for using a taser against him in his home. That incident was not captured on video. Although Slager was cleared during an internal investigation, Givens' attorneys announced last week that he plans on suing Slager and the NCPD.
North Charleston police are accused in Wilson's suit of having an "unwritten policy to simply 'look the other way." Such incidents have "fostered an environment where improper and unconstitutional conduct was condoned, tolerated and/or emboldened," the lawsuit states.
Wilson, who has a history with drug arrests, pleaded guilty of resisting arrest during the August encounter, but his lawyers noted that he did not present a threat to the officers. Charges for his suspended license have since been dropped.
Scott's killing last week has sparked activist protests in South Carolina, with some residents saying that the police have been targeting minorities for decades.