S.C. cop who fatally shot black man: 'I don't understand why he'd run'

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In this April 4, 2015, frame from dash cam video provided by the North Charleston Police Department, Walter Lamer Scott leaves his car after a traffic stop in North Charleston, S.C. The video captures the moments leading up to the fatal shooting of Scott. | North Charleston Police Department via AP

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — The white South Carolina police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of a black man can be heard telling his supervisor twice that he didn’t understand why the man ran away, according to dashcam video.

That officer, Michael Slager, in is jail and has been fired in the wake of the April 4 shooting death of Walter Scott, 50, who was buried over the weekend. The shooting happened after Slager pulled Scott over for what the officer said was a broken taillight on his Mercedes.

Scott was behind about $18,000 in his child support payments, and family members have said he may have run because he was worried about going back to jail. A warrant had been issued for his arrest.

The shooting was captured on a cellphone camera by a man passing by and became the latest example nationally of an unarmed black man shot by a white police officer, further stirring outrage.

The shooting was not captured by Slager’s dashboard camera, which shows what appears to be a routine traffic stop until Scott takes off running. But the cellphone video shows Slager firing eight times at Scott.

The State Law Enforcement Division has released almost 13 hours of dashcam video from the cruisers of the five officers who responded to the scene.

SLED spokesman Thom Berry said Monday that the actions of all North Charleston officers at the scene are being reviewed. Any findings will be forwarded to a local prosecutor.

On one video, Slager can be heard answering a call on his cellphone.

“Everything’s OK, OK?” he tells the caller. “I just shot somebody.”

He also tells the caller: “He grabbed my Taser, yeah. He was running from me.” The officer initially said after the shooting that Scott had tried to take his Taser, and the man who recorded the shooting on his cellphone said he started recording after noticing a scuffle.

Slager can later be heard on the video talking to an officer Berry identified as his supervisor.

“I’m sure SLED will be on the way,” the supervisor says. “Once they get here, it will be real quick. They’re going to tell you you’ll be off a couple of days, we’ll come back and interview you. They’re not going to ask you any questions right now. They’ll take your weapon and we’ll go from there.”

The supervisor suggests to Slager, “When you get home, it would probably be a good idea to kind of jot down your thoughts on what happened — the adrenaline is just pumping.”

“It’s pumping,” Slager responds, and they both laugh.

Then there is a pause for a few seconds, and Slager speaks again, softly:

“I don’t understand why he took off like that.”

Another short pause.

“I don’t understand why he’d run.”

On Monday, a small group of protesters blocked a main avenue in North Charleston and the entrance to City Hall.

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Malik Shabazz, the president and founder of Black Lawyers for Justice, speaks at a rally Monday in front of City Hall in North Charleston, S.C. Shabazz said his group will do its own investigation into the fatal shooting of Walter Scott. | Bruce Smith/AP

Attorney Malik Shabazz, the president of Black Lawyers for Justice, also appeared in front of City Hall, calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the incident. He said his group will do its own investigation and hold a national town hall meeting next weekend on race and police practices.

Black Lawyers for Justice has brought a $40 million lawsuit alleging Ferguson, Missouri, and St. Louis County used excessive force and falsely arrested innocent bystanders to quell widespread unrest after the fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old by a white police officer last year.

Shabazz said whether a lawsuit is brought in South Carolina depends on what his investigation turns up.

BRUCE SMITH and PHILLIP LUCAS, Associated Press

Associated Press writer Jeffery Collins in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.

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