New federal charges have now been handed down against a former North Charleston police officer accused of killing an unarmed driver fleeing a traffic stop struggle last year.
The Justice Department announced Wednesday a grand jury had returned indictments against Michael Slager on a counts of violating civil rights law, using a firearm while violating civil rights law and obstruction of justice for misleading investigators.
Slager was already free on bond for state murder charges at the time of his arrest Wednesday. A federal judge allowed him to remain free on $500,000 bond while awaiting the federal trial as well, but must wear ankle monitoring and surrender his passport.
The North Charleston officer said he stopped Walter Scott in April 2015 for a broken taillight. Dashboard camera video shows Slager returned to his car while conducting the stop and Scott started running down a side road. The two can be heard struggling off-camera and Slager later fired his Taser. However, a witness’s cell phone video recorded Scott breaking free and running through a vacant lot as Slager pulls out his pistol and fires several times.
Wednesday’s indictment states Slager’s actions violated Scott’s constitutional right against unreasonable force by police. The indictment also charges the officer with using his .45 Glock during the potential civil rights violation. It further states Slager lied to State Law Enforcement Division agents investigating the shooting by falsely claiming Scott was “coming forward at him with a Taser.”
The indictment does not cite the races of the individuals involved — Slager is white, Scott black.
Slager faces up to life in prison under the civil rights charges because Scott died. He also faces up to 10 years for the weapons charge and 20 years for obstruction.
An attorney representing Scott’s family called the move historic and symbolic. “This should not be taken lightly,” attorney L. Chris Stewart told reporters after the hearing. “What happened today is that the federal government said it stops now. Police brutality stops now, because there’s consequences.”