Former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the murder of Walter Scott today. The Associated Press reports Scott’s family had asked the judge to deliver a significant sentence, even as they expressed forgiveness for Slager:
One by one, relatives of the late Walter Scott urged a judge to mete out a significant punishment for Michael Slager, the white former police officer who fatally shot Scott, an unarmed black man, in the back after a 2015 traffic stop…
“I forgive Michael Slager. I forgive you,” Scott’s mother, Judy, said as she turned toward her son’s killer. “I pray for you, that you would repent and let Jesus come in your life.”
Sitting just a few feet away, Slager wiped tears from his eyes and mouthed: “I’m sorry.”
Slager and his family also spoke to the judge in an effort to secure a lighter sentence. CNN has more on the scene in court:
Slager’s wife, Jamie, asked the judge for mercy for her husband. “My heart breaks that things cannot be changed,” she said.
Slager, looking haggard in a gray-and-white prison jumpsuit with his wrists shackled to his waist, gave his own testimony. For the past 31 months, he said, he had thought about the moment he opened fire.
“Walter Scott is no longer with his family, and I’m responsible for that,” Slager said, adding the Scott family would be forever changed without Walter.
Slager pulled Walter Scott over for a broken light. In the midst of what seemed like an ordinary traffic stop, Scott got out of the car and ran. Slager followed and used a taser to stun Scott. When Scott broke away and ran again, Slager pulled his gun and shot him five times in the back. Scott was unarmed at the time. Slager then appeared to drop his taser near where Scott had collapsed.
The shooting became a major story after video shot by a bystander was published by the media. In April 2015, Time magazine put Scott and Slager on its cover under the headline “Black Lives Matter.”
— Kyle Hightower (@khightower) April 10, 2015
Despite the video, Slager’s state trial resulted in a hung jury. Prosecutors said they would retry the case but in May of this year, Slager pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges. As part of the plea, the state agreed to drop the murder case against Slager. Today, the court determined that Slager’s actions constituted 2nd-degree murder. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a statement today offering condolences to Scott’s family:
“Law enforcement officers have the noble calling to serve and protect,” Attorney General Sessions said. “Officers who violate anyone’s rights also violate their oaths of honor, and they tarnish the names of the vast majority of officers, who do incredible work. Those who enforce our laws must also abide by them—and this Department of Justice will hold accountable anyone who violates the civil rights of our fellow Americans. On behalf of the Department of Justice, I want to offer my condolences to the Scott family and loved ones.”
Here’s the video clip of the shooting.