Crime & Justice

Shooting by SC police officer 'a criminal act,' says LAPD Chief Beck

North Charleston Officer Michael Slager can be seen stopping Walter Scott. Slager has been charged with murder in the shooting death of Scott captured in a separate video.
North Charleston Officer Michael Slager can be seen stopping Walter Scott. Slager has been charged with murder in the shooting death of Scott captured in a separate video.
Charleston County Sheriff's Office/AP

5:00 p.m.: LAPD Chief Charlie Beck calls the S.C. shooting "a criminal act"

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said Thursday that the actions of a South Carolina officer who was captured on cellphone video fatally shooting a fleeing, unarmed man were criminal.

Beck said he would have similarly had the officer arrested based on the video by the bystander, but he also said he'd typically do a more detailed investigation before making such a judgment.

"I will tell you this, based on what I have seen, based on the video, it is a criminal act," Beck said. "It is well beyond any policies of the Los Angeles Police Department."

Michael Thomas Slager, 33, was a police officer in the city of North Charleston, South Carolina, who was fired and charged with murder after cellphone video surfaced showing him firing eight times at a black man who ran away from him after a traffic stop.

Before the video emerged, Slager said he fired in self-defense after the man grabbed his department-issued Taser. His attorney said Thursday that they are conducting their own investigation and have nothing to add at this time.

While the cellphone video was important and compelling evidence, investigators may have reached the same conclusion based on further investigation, including the coroner's review, witness interviews or examination of the officer's Taser, Beck said.

"What I'm trying to put forward is that the video is very important, but it's not the only piece of evidence," Beck said. "The other pieces of evidence may or may not support the video, and the other pieces of evidence could lead to the same conclusion absent the video."

The LAPD is working to equip roughly 7,000 officers with body cameras by the year's end, making it the nation's largest law enforcement agency to move forward with such an ambitious expansion of the technology.

Beck said such an incident impacts all officers but doesn't diminish his pride in their willingness to take risks daily.

"To have somebody 3,000 miles away take away from that by a criminal act, it's disheartening," Beck said. "All of us suffer when somebody in the profession acts illegally."

— Tami Abdollah, Associated Press

4:04 p.m.: Dashcam video shows traffic stop before shooting

Dashcam video released by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division shows a routine traffic stop by Officer Michael Slager in North Charleston that eventually resulted in Walter Scott, 50, running from the vehicle.

Slager, as video footage of the shooting released earlier this week shows, shot Scott in the back, killing him. Slager was fired for last weekend's shooting and has been charged with the killing.

The video released Thursday shows Slager's patrol car stopping a black Mercedes with a broken tail light. Scott, the car's driver, can be heard telling the officer he is planning to buy the car — and so does not have insurance for it.

Slager then returns to his vehicle. The driver's-side door of the Mercedes opens and Scott begins to run. The passenger in the car remains inside. You can watch the video here.

After the shooting that followed, which the dashcam video does not show, Slager said Scott had tried to take his Taser. But a bystander's video showed the officer firing eight rounds at Scott, who was running away from him. Scott fell to the ground; Slager then handcuffed him.

As we reported earlier Thursday, Slager was accused in 2013 of using excessive force against an unarmed man he wrongly took to be a suspect in a case. He was exonerated.

— Krishnadev Calamur, NPR

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