On Saturday, April 4, a Black nightmare played out in North Charleston, South Carolina. Every fear that any conscientious person of color in America has ever had played itself out in broad daylight when 50-year-old Walter L. Scott was shot in the back by 33-year-old North Charleston Police Officer Michael T. Slager after a traffic stop over a busted taillight. The officer originally told his superiors that Scott reached for his stun gun, he feared for his life and thus fired eight shots at the fleeing Scott-one of which entered through his back and pierced his heart resulting in almost immediate death. Given the officer’s version of the shooting, there is no doubt that Officer Slager would have avoided any charges and likely would have continued working in law enforcement had events not unfolded as they did.
However, unbeknownst to the parties involved, the deadly encounter was videotaped by an unknown individual. That 4-minute video begins with Scott attempting to flee the officer and was clearly trying to get as far away from the officer as possible. Additionally, it did not appear that the officer was in any danger, at any point, during the altercation.
The eight shots are startling and unnerving at any decibel because the sensitive viewer realizes the intent is to kill this man as if he were some rabid animal. But he was a human being. In the past the major media machine has painted Black males who were gunned down by police officers as being violent thugs with criminal backgrounds. However, the New York Times successfully humanized Walter L. Scott as the victim of a crime rather than a beast who needed to be destroyed for the sake of the better good. The video also shows the offending officer walking over to the area where he was standing when he fired the deadly shots, picking up an item believed to be his stun gun, and dropping it near Mr. Scott. Slager has been fired by the North Charleston Police Department is now facing murder charges, a very rare charge in such circumstances.
Really, what is one to do? If you run, you will probably get shot. If you surrender, you still might get shot. If you're simply walking up the stairs in your own building, you might get shot.
Just to let our constituency know, it is perfectly legal to videotape officers carrying out their duties in all 50 states as long as the individual filming them does not physically impede their ability to carry out said duties. Good luck citizenry.
The Shadow League deplores the lack of humanity that is often exhibited by the media toward the dead in these heinous circumstances. So, it behooves us to tip our hat to the New York Times for not only publishing the video but for depicting him as a human being. The sad part is this is anomaly considering most media outlets will side with law enforcement even when the circumstances are murky and inconsistent with evidence provided by law enforcement.
But no one can claim any kind of victory when another Black man is dead at the hands of a law enforcement officer who then tried to lie after the fact. How many people have been gunned down under shady circumstances yet saw no justice because the officers involved lied about it? As my sainted grandmother used to say “You gotta kill them roaches every time you see one. Because for every one you see, there’s a hundred you don’t see.” The odds are that Scott was not the only brother to die in this manner that day in America. He’s just the only one we know about. This was not the only officer who lied about the circumstances and is free to keep shooting brothers down with impunity until he is reprimanded by superiors, which is highly unlikely, or the unblinking eye of a video camera captures his nefarious deeds.
A Black North Charleston Police Officer was the first to arrive on the scene after the shooting. We would love to know what was going through his mind when he saw Slager drop the object near Scott's lifeless, handcuffed corpse.
Rest in Power Walter L. Scott.
While we are glad that this man is being brought to justice, the fact that some are questioning whether he will be convicted is indicative of a nation built on White supremacy and that still celebrates most of its tenets.