With a murder charge filed against a South Carolina police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man in the back as he fled--according to a now widely circulated video--I wondered what account police initially gave of the shooting before the video surfaced. A story that the Charlleston Post and Courier carried on Saturday, the day of the shooting, provides the answer. Police in North Charleston, S.C., maintained that the officer fired to protect himself after Walter Scott, 50, grappled with him for his Taser and took control of it. As the paper reported, with careful use of attribution:
Police allege that during the struggle the man gained control of the Taser and attempted to use it against the officer. The officer then resorted to his service weapon and shot him, police alleged.
The video discloses much more. It does appear to show a struggle over some object that falls to the ground. Then it shows Scott turning his back on the offer and running away.The officer, Michael Slager, aims his gun and shoots eight times, until Scott falls. Slager then handcuffs Scott, who is face down on the ground. Then he goes back to pick up the object that had fallen to the ground, and appears to return to drop it beside Scott's body, according to The New York Times.
As the mayor of North Charleston told the Charleston Post and Courier, without the video, the events that followed would have gone much differently.