WASHINGTON, United States – A grand jury in South Carolina has indicted a white former police officer on murder charges for fatally shooting a fleeing black motorist, a state prosecutor said Monday.
Michael Slager, who served with the North Charleston police force, was indicted for murder in the killing of 50-year-old Walter Scott, prosecutor Scarlett Wilson announced at a press conference.
Slager "with malice aforethought, did kill and murder Walter Lamar Scott by means of shooting him with a handgun," the indictment read.
"In South Carolina, a murder conviction carries life in prison or a sentence between life and 30 years. If Mr Slager were to be convicted ... he would have to do every day of that sentence. There is no parole," Wilson said.
Slager on April 4 shot and killed Scott, who was unarmed, as the African-American man fled the scene during a routine traffic stop.
Slager was dismissed from the force and arrested a short time after the release of a bystander's cellphone video which showed Scott running away as Slager pulls his gun and fires eight shots, five of which hit Scott in the back.
Slager had said he felt threatened during his encounter with Scott.
Scott's death reignited a recurring national debate about excessive police force and race relations in the United States.
Wilson, who brought the case, said her "work has just begun."
"Just because you have video in a case doesn't mean it's the be-all, end-all and the case is over," she said.
Nevertheless, the activist group Black Lives Matter praised the indictment. They said it came at a time when police malfeasance and other inequities persist.
"There is a system of laws that maintain an unequal social order. The contradictions of our democracy are found in the way that law is enforced, upon whom, and to what degree," the North Charleston branch of the group wrote in a statement.
"As the indictment has brought us a small step towards healing, we as a community are doing our part and offering recommendations to our elected officials in order to rebuild trust," they said, announcing a public meeting later Monday to discuss the latest developments in the case.
The shooting was one of several recent deadly encounters, some caught on film, in which black subjects have lost their lives under questionable circumstances at the hands of police.
The US Justice Department has launched investigations into possible civil rights violations by police in a number of the cases. – Rappler.com