The video was viewed millions of times around the world. It was blurry, frenzied and chilling: an unarmed black man ran from a white officer, who shot him five times in the back, the Associated Press reports. On Thursday, relatives of that fleeing motorist described the pain of reliving Walter Scott’s death each time the cellphone video aired. Over and over, they’ve watched Scott crumple to the ground, never to rise again. They know nothing will bring back Scott, the 50-year-old father who loved pancake breakfasts with his family. they also know the painful images helped bring them solace they can embrace: a 20-year federal prison sentence for the man responsible.
Would Michael Slager have received such a stiff sentence without the video? “Of course not,” said Chris Stewart, an attorney for Scott’s family. The officer’s first story, the one Stewart and Scott’s family have disputed since the April 4, 2015, shooting, was Slager’s claim of self-defense. The then-North Charleston officer said he felt afraid and threatened when Scott grabbed his stun gun and charged at him with it. Then the video surfaced. The bystander who shot it on his way to work at a barber shop was afraid to take it to police after the officer’s narrative emerged, and instead he shared it with the Scott family. When they released the images publicly, people could see the shooting for themselves — and see that Slager was lying, Stewart and prosecutors have said. Slager, 36, is one of only a few police officers to go to prison for a fatal shooting, and his sentence is by far the stiffest since the shootings came under extra scrutiny in recent years.