Several questions remain unanswered about the fatal police shooting of an African-American man, Walter Scott, in South Carolina, on Saturday. By Wednesday, North Charleston Officer Michael Slager, who is white, was arrested, charged with murder, and fired from his job. He remains jailed without bond.
After the incident on Saturday, police originally said the shooting occurred because Slager, 33, feared for his life. But days later, a horrifying cellphone video depicting the encounter between the two men was released. Bystander Feidin Santana recorded the event and gave the video to the Scott family. He spoke to msnbc about what he witnessed. In the video, Slager appears to fire eight shots at Scott, 50, as the man attempted to flee the scene. Scott appears to have been unarmed.
Police reports say the confrontation between Slager and Scott began after the officer stopped the man for driving with a broken tail-light. Scott ran away, and Slager chased him on foot. Slager fired his Taser but it didn’t stop Scott. Slager reported on his radio: “Shots fired and the subject is down. He took my Taser.”
But the video that surfaced Tuesday shows the two men tussling before Scott ran away. Slager then fires eight shots at Scott. At the last shot, Scott falls to the ground. Slager then runs back to the site of the tussle, picks up something from the ground, and drops it near Scott’s body.
The footage also shows Slager and another officer who arrived at the scene not performing first aid on Scott as he remained on the ground. It is not clear whether they did so after the video ended.
The U.S. Justice Department and FBI have opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting.
These 8 questions remain unanswered:
1. Why didn’t he use CPR? Santana told msnbc on Thursday that he didn’t see the officers trying to resuscitate Scott. Speaking on “Morning Joe,” Santana said he only witnessed the officers taking Scott’s pulse and lifting up his shirt, as if to check for wounds. “I don’t know if they did it after I left, but I never saw that,” he added.
2. Why doesn’t the police report reflect Slager running back to the site of the tussle and picking up something from the ground?
3. One of Charleston’s highest profile defense lawyers announced Wednesday he’s representing Slager. Will the police department pay for the defense?
4. What did the second cop who arrived at the scene know about the shooting?
5. Police have declined media requests to release the video from the dashboard camera of the police car, which might shed light on what happened before the cellphone video began, saying it’s in the hands of state investigators. Will it be released and what will it show?
6. What was the object that Slager picked up from the area of the tussle and dropped near Scott’s body? The Scott family and others have said they believe it’s the Taser, and that Slager was trying to cover his tracks by making it appear that Scott took his Taser, but has that been confirmed?
7. Did Slager and/or other officers knowingly file a false police report in order to avoid responsibility for Scott’s death?
8. The big question: If Scott was not a threat to Slager, why did the officer fire on him?