Michael Slager, a white former South Carolina police officer, was sentenced Thursday to a 20-year prison term for shooting unarmed black motorist Walter Scott to death. Before he imposed the sentence, U.S. District Judge David Norton ruled that Slager had committed murder and not manslaughter. That decision subjected Slager to a term of 19 to 24 years in prison under sentencing guidelines, the Associated Press reports.
Norton announced the sentence after hearing testimony from Scott’s family and friends. Scott’s mother, Judy Scott, said through tears that her faith in God gives her the ability to forgive Slager. Scott’s brother, Anthony, echoed that sentiment. “I’m not angry at you, Michael. Michael, I forgive you, and Michael, I do pray for you now and for your family, because we’ve gone through a traumatic time,” he said. Attorneys for ex-North Charleston officer Slager said he shot the 50-year-old Scott in self-defense after the two fought and Scott reached for Slager’s stun gun. They said race didn’t play any role in the shooting and that Slager never had any “racial animus” toward minorities. Slager pleaded guilty in federal court to violating Scott’s civil rights. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors dropped state murder charges. A year ago, a state judge declared a mistrial when jurors deadlocked.