Columbia, SC - Michael Slager, the former police officer who shot Walter Scott as he was running away, is going to plead guilty as part of a plea deal, according to Associated Press.
State prosecutors failed to secure a conviction against Slager last year when his murder trial ended in a hung jury. State prosecutors had been planning to retry him later this year as federal prosecutors were going to seek charges for civil rights violations.
As part of the plea deal, state prosecutors are dropping the murder charge against Michael Slager, and both the state and federal charges are being resolved. Slager will plead guilty to civil rights violations, which may still result in Slager being sentenced to life in prison.
After Slager pleads guilty, the sentence will be decided by a federal judge at a sentencing hearing, which will likely take place in several weeks.
The shooting occurred during the morning of April 4, 2015, when former North Charleston PD Officer Michael Slager stopped a vehicle for a non-working brake light. He approached the vehicle, whose driver was Walter Scott, age 50. Slager talked with Scott and then returned to his patrol car to check Scott's driver's license. Scott then got out of his vehicle and fled. Slager pursued him to a nearby lot behind a pawn shop and the two got into a struggle.
Michael Slager used his Taser cartridges to no effect, and there was a struggle over the taser before Walter Scott fled again. Slager drew his gun and fired eight times at Scott as he was running away. Scott was struck five times, three times in his back, one time on his upper buttock, and one time on an ear.
A forensic pathologist testified at Michael Slager's trial that the fatal shot entered Scott's back and struck his heart and lungs. The official autopsy report has not been released but a toxicology report showed that Scott had alcohol and cocaine in his system when he died. A second occupant of Scott's car, reported to be a co-worker and friend, was briefly detained after the incident and then released.
According to news sources, immediately following the shooting, Slager radioed a dispatcher and stated "shots fired and the subject is down. He took my Taser." Slager then approached Scott, repeatedly told him to place his hands behind his back, and then handcuffed him.
After the incident, Michael Slager was fired, charged with murder, and released on $500,000 bond. He is also awaiting trial in federal court on charges of violating Scott's rights, obstruction of justice, and a gun violation. During the trial, Slager testified that he feared for his life and that Scott would not stop despite being told to stop multiple times. He said that Scott took his Taser away from him and pointed it at him after the cartridges were expended. Publicly released information doesn't clarify why Slager believed that Scott was a danger to anyone's life as he ran away.
Police sources said that Slager had 18 use of force incidents in four years. The City of North Charleston has already agreed to pay a $6.5 million settlement to the Scott family.
An eyewitness to the shooting recorded the incident on his cell phone but he did not immediately tell anyone of the video because he believed his life might be in danger. He then gave the cell phone video to a Black Lives Matter member, who shared it with Scott's family. It was noted in the trial that there were discrepancies between Slager's testimony and what can be seen on the cell phone video.
The video shows Michael Slager running back to pick up his Taser off of the ground and then dropping it by Scott's body, giving the impression of an attempted cover-up.
Despite the hung jury, the shooting of Walter Scott did not appear to be a reasonable use of force, and his conviction was likely inevitable. The most surprising part of this latest development isn't that Slager would plead guilty, but that he would be offered a plea deal at all.
You can see the video of the shooting below. WARNING: Graphic footage of homicide.