SUMMERVILLE, USA – Hundreds of mourners gathered on Saturday, April 11, for the funeral of Walter Scott, an unarmed black suspect who was shot dead by a white officer in South Carolina as he fled following a routine traffic stop.
Scott's death, which a bystander caught on video, has reignited debates about excessive police force and race relations in the United States.
Scott's body arrived at WORD Ministries Christian Center, where family, friends, politicians and law enforcement gathered to bury the 50-year-old father of four.
His casket was draped in an American flag and a Dallas Cowboys sign in honor of his favorite football team.
An estimated 200 to 300 people gathered outside the church as the family entered. A funeral program showed photos of the family along with the words "We Will Miss You."
US Senator for South Carolina Tim Scott posted on Twitter ahead of the funeral, saying: "Attending Walter Scott's homegoing service. Thankful to have been able to pray and talk with his family this week."
The officer who killed Scott, Michael Slager, 33, has been charged with murder and fired from the force. He faces life in prison or the death penalty if convicted.
The bystander video shows Scott running from Slager, who pulls his gun and fires eight shots, five of which hit Scott.
An earlier dash cam video shows Scott's car being pulled over by Slager, who asks for Scott's registration before Scott runs away after Slager has returned to his own vehicle.
Scott's father said his son may have been running because he owed child support and did not want to return to jail.
South Carolina police said they were suspicious of the shooting from the beginning because of "inconsistencies" in Slager's initial reporting of events and multiple gunshot wounds in Scott's back.
Slager had said he felt threatened during his encounter with Scott.
North Charleston mayor Keith Summey said the city's police will be required to wear body cameras in the future to record interactions with the public.
Demonstrators gathered for peaceful protests in North Charleston after the killing, with some demanding the city council create a citizens review board to look into police conduct.
Scott's family has called for greater accountability among police, and hopes Scott's death will spark reform within the force.
Scott's shooting comes in the wake of a series of similar incidents that have provoked outrage and protests across the United States, most notoriously the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri last August.
Though there are no comprehensive national statistics on how many people die in US police hands each year, Human Rights Watch estimates that out of a reported more than 2,700 police-involved deaths deemed "justifiable" by authorities between 2005-2011, just 41 officers were charged.
The US Justice Department has launched investigations into a number of police departments, including Ferguson's, after shootings. – Rappler.com