Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck said a South Carolina officer seen on cellphone video fatally shooting an unarmed man who was running away committed a criminal act and was rightly arrested.
Beck said Thursday that, while he had seen only the video and wasn't privy to the officer's statements or actions before the shooting or the investigation, the video alone justified an arrest.
"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, and I would done exactly what the chief in North Charleston did. I would have arrested the officer."
The officer, Michael T. Slager, 33, who is white, was fired and arrested on a charge of suspicion of murder after the video showing him shooting Walter Scott, a 50-year-old unarmed African American, eight times became public.
Beck said the "cellphone video is very compelling …. it is easy to draw the conclusion based on the video, but there is a lot of other evidence that could lead you down the same path."
Beck cautioned that the "video is very important, but it is not the only piece of evidence. The other pieces of video may or may not support the video, and the other pieces of evidence could lead to the same conclusions absent the video."
Slager had initially claimed he fired in self-defense after Scott grabbed his Taser. But the video shows Slager's Taser lying behind him as Scott runs away and the officer opens fire.
Video from a dashboard camera in the Slager's police cruiser released Thursday shows a traffic stop in which the officer and Scott discuss Scott's lack of insurance. As Slager returns to his patrol car, Scott bolts from his car and runs away.
Beck acknowledged that the killing affected all police officers but did not diminish his pride in officers' willingness to risk their well-being daily for others.
"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."