Enhanced Video Holds Key to S.C. Officer’s Defense

     (CN) – An enhanced video showing the killing of an unarmed black man by a North Charleston, S.C. police officer appears to hold the key to his defense, a court filing in a related case reveals.
     Michael Slager is to be tried later this year in the April 2015 shooting death of Walter Scott following a routine traffic stop.
     The dashboard camera on Slager’s police cruiser showed Scott running from the scene, and the officer has maintained he fatally shot the man after a scuffle in which Scott grabbed his Taser.
     However, a bystander’s video showed that Scott was some distance from Slager when he was being fired at, and was running away from the officer.
     Slager was fired from the North Charleston police, arrested and charged with murder after the bystander video became public.
     The August 10 court filing suggesting what Slager’s defense will be at trial, comes in a related case. The former officer is suing the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, which he says “rushed to judgment” and dumped his case after the video went viral, reneging on promises to “provide him a legal defense in the event he was charged with a crime arising out of an officer involved shooting.”
     The association has requested a grant of summary judgment in the case, and it is Slager’s motion in opposition that his lawyers suggest what their strategy will be during his murder trial.
     “Significantly,” the motion says, the FBI enhancement of the bystander video “Shows that after resisting arrest and after wrestling with Officer Slager on the ground, Walter Scott grabbed Slager’s Taser as the two men were face to face.
     “It is at this moment that Officer Slager made the decision to use deadly force and draw his firearm,” the motion continues. “Since Scott had gained control of his Taser and faced Officer Slager, the decision was made to use deadly force as he had been trained to do consistent with Officer Slager’s training.”
     A hearing on Slager’s lawsuit against the association is scheduled for August 25.
     In the motion, attorneys Eric Bland. Ronald Richter and Scott Mongillo of Bland Richter LLP in Charleston, argue that even the association has conceded in depositions that Slager’s use of deadly force would have been reasonable if he believed he was at a risk of bodily harm.
     Despite this, and despite having conducted “no investigation of its own,” they say, the association abandoned Slager “just four days after the shooting death of Walter Scott.”
     “It did not even await the results of the investigation being conducted by SLED [the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division], not did it wait to see the video enhancement of the shooting which was being conducted by the FBI.”
     In a July 14 filing, James Bradley, the West Columbia, S.C. attorney representing the association, said he was moving for summary judgment because of “Mr. Slager’s shooting an unarmed Mr. Scott five times in the back as he fled, placing the Taser beside Mr. Scott’s body, and lying to the PBA and SLED,” all of which it says were “outside the scope of Mr. Slager’s duty as a police officer.”
     Bradley and the association also contend that Slager has refused to answer questions relevant to his claims by “asserting his privilege against self-incrimination.”
     But Slager’s lawyers reject such arguments.
     The maintain the association arbitrarily decided the very issue it was contractually bound to defend, and “did so adversely to its member.”
     “The issue in this case is not whether Michael Slater is guilty or innocent of a crime,” the motion in opposition says. “The issue is whether it was right or wrong for the PBA to abandon him. It was wrong. It was wrong as a matter of law.”

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