In a chaotic press conference Wednesday afternoon, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said his city’s police have turned over the investigation of an officer-involved shooting to state police.
Summey said Patrolman 1st Class Michael Slager had been terminated from the North Charleston Police Department after his arrest for shooting 50-year-old Walter Scott in the back following a traffic stop. Police had initially said Slager shot Scott after the other man ran from the scene, then resisted arrest and tried to take control of the officer’s Taser. But a cell phone video from a bystander showed that Scott was running through a vacant lot when Slager fired eight times, killing him.
“We turned over the investigation over to an independent agency that does not work for the mayor and does not work for the chief,” Summey said, noting the State Law Enforcement Division is in charge of the investigation. SLED charged Slager with murder after getting a copy of the video on Tuesday.
Summey also said he had taken executive action to purchase an additional 150 body cameras so that each North Charleston police officer would have one in the future. The city was already in the process of acquiring 101 cameras through a grant.
While Slager has been fired, Summey said the city will continue to pay for his health insurance because his wife is eight-months pregnant. The mayor called it a tragedy for two families.
Police Chief Eddie Driggers said he was “sickened” by what he saw on the video, but his explanations were repeatedly interrupted by shouts of “no justice, no peace!” from dozens of protesters who had gathered at the press conference. The protesters also became angry after the chief said he couldn’t answer several difficult questions due to SLED’s investigation.
“There are questions that I have in my mind that I can’t answer right now,” Driggers said. The mayor then took back the podium and threatened to close the news conference.
Protests began within hours of the murder charge against Slager. Several dozen people gathered outside City Hall in North Charleston on Wednesday morning led by Black Lives Matter, a group formed after the fatal shooting of another black man in Ferguson, Missouri.
“We’re not just reacting to this shooting,” the rally’s leader Muhiydin D’Baha said. “We’re not just reacting to that. This has been a longstanding affair. This has been a longstanding occurrence.”
D’Baha claimed North Charleston Police have a history of racially profiling African-Americans in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.