Michael Slager gets 20-year sentence in Walter Scott shooting
The white ex-South Carolina cop who shot an unarmed black man in the back as a passerby videotaped the stunning death received a 20-year federal prison term Thursday.
Former North Charleston officer Michael Slager was sentenced by U.S. District Judge David Norton, who earlier ruled the cop’s shooting of Walter Scott during a traffic stop was second-degree murder.
“This is a tragedy that shouldn’t have happened,” said Norton, who could have thrown the disgraced law enforcer behind bars for 24 years.
Slager, 36, was also declared guilty of obstruction of justice for the bogus version of the April 2015 shooting that he gave to state police investigators.
He spent much of the hearing staring downward or wiping his eyes before the judge imposed sentence to wrap up an emotional four-day hearing.
The stunning video, shot with a cell phone, showed the white officer directly firing five shots into the back of Walter Scott when the man bolted during a routine traffic stop.
Michael Slager (right) walks from the Charleston courthouse following a mistrial last year.
The disturbing clip went viral on social media, and was played again at this week’s hearing. Slager initially claimed that he fatally shot Scott, 50, when the driver grabbed for his Taser.
The former officer had pulled Scott over for a broken brake light. Slager was jailed this past May after pleading guilty to violating the black victim’s civil rights.
Scott’s tearful mother, appearing at the hearing before Norton ruled on the officer’s guilt, said she had forgiven Slager for murdering her son.
“Forgiveness is in my heart,” said Judy Scott, her voice amplified with emotion. “I pray for you, that you would repent and let Jesus come in your life.”
The cellphone video shows Scott standing roughly 17 feet from Slager before the officer squeezes off eight shots, with five hitting the victim in the back.
Defense lawyers say Slager has accepted responsibility for the shooting.
“There’s nothing in Michael Slager’s background, from birth to today, of any racial animus or any harassment of minority members of the community,” said lawyer Andy Savage said.
A state criminal trial for Slager had resulted in a hung jury.
Walter Scott was fatally shot by Slager in 2015.
“I think everybody’s just ready to close this chapter of life and start the next chapter,” said Scott family lawyer Justin Bamberg. “But all of them end the same way, and that is that Walter’s not here.”
With News Wire Services