A federal judge sentenced former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager to 240 months in prison, ruling Thursday that the officer committed second-degree murder when he shot and killed a driver following a struggle.
District Judge David Norton also ruled Slager obstructed justice by misleading state investigators about why he shot Walter Scott after Scott ran from a traffic stop in April 2015. Norton plans to announce a sentence later in the day, but his decision means the former officer would face 19-24 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.
Slager pleaded guilty in May to use of excessive force in exchange for prosecutors dropping two other civil rights charges against him.
He made an emotional plea shortly before Norton’s decision, apologizing for what happened. “With my actions that day, Walter Scott is no longer with his family, and I am responsible for that,” Slager said in brief comments. “After thinking about what happened that day, I wish this never would have happened.”
Norton’s decision came after three days of testimony from the prosecution and defense teams that focused on Slager’s and Scott’s actions which led up to the shooting. Dashboard camera footage showed Slager pulled Scott over for a broken brake light and was running his driver’s license when Scott — who had a family court bench warrant for unpaid child support — ran from the car. Slager chased after him down a side road.
A bystander recorded the shooting on his cell phone. Feidin Santana appeared to record the end of a struggle between the pair, when Scott turned to run through a vacant lot, knocking a Taser to the ground. Slager then pulled out his gun and fired at Scott’s back eight times as he ran. Norton ruled Slager misled investigators by insisting he fired after Scott gained control of his Taser and he felt in fear of his life.
Several members of Scott’s family spoke ahead of the sentencing decision. “He murdered my father,” his son Miles said. “I miss my dad so much.”
Scott’s mother Judy said she forgave Slager and hoped he would “let Jesus come into his life.”