Police dashboard video released Thursday by South Carolina authorities appears to show a routine interaction between a North Charleston police officer and a black motorist during a traffic stop Saturday that preceded the officer’s fatal shooting of the unarmed man.
The video shows Walter L. Scott, 50, slowly pulling into a parking spot at an Advance Auto Parts store and moments later North Charleston Patrolman Michael T. Slager walking toward the car containing Scott and a front-seat passenger.
Slager can be heard telling Scott: “The reason I stopped you is your brake light is out.”
Slager returned to his police cruiser, and told Scott to wait inside his car. Then a few minutes later, Scott bolted from his car and began sprinting down a side street. A cellphone video taken by a passerby picks up the encounter and showed Slager as he fired eight shots at Scott after Scott broke away from the officer and ran.
Scott died from gunshot wounds. Slager was charged with murder in a case that has drawn worldwide attention.
During the traffic stop, the two men appeared to have a normal conversation as the officer asked Scott for his license and registration. Scott told him he didn’t have the registration or insurance card, explaining that he was in the process of purchasing the gray 1990 Mercedes-Benz. Scott appeared to hand Slager the driver’s license and the officer took it with him when he returned to his police vehicle.
Neither man appeared to display agitation or hostility. They did not raise their voices or make any move toward one another.
After the officer returned to his cruiser, Scott opened his car door and raised his hand as if to ask a question. Slager shouted at him to get back in the car, and Scott complied.
A short while later, Scott suddenly opened the door and bolted to the street.
Scott’s brother, Anthony Scott, and an attorney for the Scott family, L. Chris Stewart, told the Los Angeles Times in interviews this week that Walter Scott had bought the Mercedes-Benz from a neighbor last week.
Anthony Scott also said his brother expressed concern to him several times that he feared police would stop him and discover an outstanding warrant for unpaid child support. It is not clear from the dashboard video whether Slager had discovered the warrant.
Scott said his brother told him that he was driving to the auto parts store to buy parts for the Mercedes-Benz.
A police incident report said the passenger in the Mercedes-Benz, who was not identified, had been “detained.” During the period of time covered in one clip from the dashboard video, the passenger remained in the front seat the entire time. A later, more expanded version showed the passenger being patted down and walking off.
Civil rights leaders and residents in North Charleston have accused police of profiling black motorists, stopping them for minor violations or no violations at all. Police statistics since 2007 show that blacks in North Charleston have been pulled over twice as often as whites in cases where no citation was issued.
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