A federal judge in South Carolina ruled Thursday that a former North Charleston police officer committed second-degree murder in the shooting of unarmed black motorist Walter Scott, opening the way for a lengthy prison sentence.
The ruling by U.S. district court judge David Norton at a federal hearing addressed the underlying offense against Michael Slager, 36, for violating Scott’s civil rights during a 2015 shooting. A bystander recorded the incident, in which Scott was hit five times from behind, sparking a national outcry.
Norton’s decision in a federal court in Charleston opened the way for a sentence of 19 to 24 years in prison for Slager.
The shooting erupted following a daytime traffic stop on April 4, 2015. Scott initially ran from Slager, who tried to use a Taser on him before the pair struggled on the ground. As Scott fled a second time, Slager fired at him eight times, hitting him five times.
Norton also ruled Thursday that Slager gave false testimony to authorities in the case. Slager’s claim that Scott tried to use the Taser against the officer during the ordeal was contradicted by the video.
Slager’s initial trial in state court ended in a mistrial due to a hung jury. The former officer agreed to plead guilty to a federal civil rights violation. That avoided another state trial and left sentencing in the hands of a judge.
The case sparked national attention amid a series of shooting incidents across the country involving white police officers and unarmed black men.
Officials in North Charleston reached a $6.5 million settlement with Scott’s family in 2015.
Contributing: Associated Press
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