A closer look at the video that shows North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer Michael Slager shooting motorist Walter Scott in the back suggests why Slager's superiors were so quick to charge him with murder after viewing the footage. Not only was Scott running away from Slager when the patrolman fired eight rounds at him, but it does not look like Scott ever had control of the officer's Taser in a way that posed a significant threat. In fact, as Nick Gillespie mentioned earlier this morning, it looks like Slager may have doctored the scene by picking up the Taser and dropping it near Scott after shooting him.
After Slager stopped Scott for driving with a broken brake light on Saturday morning, Scott ran away, apparently because he had an outstanding warrant for failure to pay child support. According to police reports, Slager pursued Scott and caught up with him in a lot next to a muffler shop, where the officer drew his Taser and fired. The New York Times describes what happened next:
The video begins in the vacant lot, apparently moments after Officer Slager fired his Taser. Wires, which carry the electrical current from the stun gun, appear to be extending from Mr. Scott's body as the two men tussle and Mr. Scott turns to run.
Something—it is not clear whether it is the stun gun—is either tossed or knocked to the ground behind the two men, and Officer Slager draws his gun, the video shows. When the officer fires, Mr. Scott appears to be 15 to 20 feet away and fleeing. He falls after the last of eight shots.
The officer then runs back toward where the initial scuffle occurred and picks something up off the ground. Moments later, he drops an object near Mr. Scott's body, the video shows.
Reuters' description is similar:
At no point in the video, which does not show the initial contact between the men, does Scott appear to be armed.
Slager is seen placing the victim in handcuffs as he lies on the ground, and then the officer walks back to a spot near where he opened fire.
The video then shows him appearing to pick something up, return to Scott, and then drop it next to him on the ground.
"Shots fired and the subject is down," Slager reported over his radio. "He took my Taser."
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.