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Cop Who Fatally Shot Fleeing, Unarmed Man in the Back is Charged With Murder

Michael Slager faces 30 years to life for the April 4 shooting of Walter Scott, an unarmed black man who fled after Slager pulled him over for a broken tail light.

by VICE News
Jun 8 2015, 5:10pm

Michael Slager

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Michael Slager, the North Charleston cop who fatally shot unarmed black man Walter Scott during a routine traffic stop, has been indicted on a murder charge.

Prosecutors announced the indictment Monday. A trial date has not been set.

Slager faces 30 years to life in prison if found guilty of murder during the April 4 shooting. The incident was captured both on dashcam footage and witness cell phone footage, which showed the 33-year-old officer firing eight rounds at 50-year-old Scott's back as he ran away from the officer.

"The jury will make up its own mind after it sees the video and hears the other testimony," Prosecutor Scarlett Wilson said.

Slager is not subject to the death penalty under South Carolina law because the shooting was not accompanied by aggravating circumstances like kidnapping or robbery, Wilson said.

Related: South Carolina Cop Laughed About Adrenaline Rush After Fatally Shooting Walter Scott

In the cell phone video, Slager can be seen chasing Scott into an empty grassy lot. The shaky three-minute clip, shot by an anonymous witness, shows the two men grappling at each other's hands. Scott, dressed in a green t-shirt and black tracksuit pants, is then seen bolting away from Slager, but takes less than 10 steps before he is gunned down.

Slager was almost immediately fired from the police department and is currently in prison without bail.

In a statement after the incident from David Aylor, Slager's attorney at the time, the officer claimed he "felt threatened" and said that Scott tried to wrestle his Taser away from him during the struggle. On the day the murder charges were revealed, Aylor told the Post and Courier he is no longer representing Slager.

The shooting has made national headlines and sparked a string of protests in North Charleston, where activists have called for more robust citizen oversight of the city's police force, and for the resignation of both the city's mayor and police chief.

Related: Protests Follow Police Slaying of Walter Scott in South Carolina

Charleston County Sheriff's Maj. Eric Watson said that at the time of the traffic stop, Scott was wanted on a Family Court warrant for failing to pay child support. The only other charge brought against him was nearly 30 years ago when he was arrested on a 1987 assault and battery charge, Watson said.

Separate investigations into Scott's death are being conducted by South Carolina's Law Enforcement Division and the FBI and Justice Department. The Justice Department has been responsible for investigating several civil rights suits against a number of officers involved in the killings of unarmed black men in recent months.

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields