CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Jurors in the murder trial of a former South Carolina police officer heard testimony Monday that the white officer’s initial account of the shooting of an unarmed black motorist contradicted what a cellphone video of the shooting shows. They also saw enhanced video of the incident.
The trial of Michael Slager, who was fired from the North Charleston police department and charged with murder in the death of 50-year-old Walter Scott, entered its third week Monday.
Slager faces 30 years to life if convicted of murder in the shooting death of Scott as Scott ran from an April 2015 traffic stop. Cellphone video of the shooting recorded by a bystander shows Scott being shot five times in the back. It stunned the nation and was seen around the world on the internet.
Eleven white and one black juror are hearing the case of the 35-year-old Slager.
Over the weekend, another predominantly white jury deadlocked in another case involving a police shooting after a traffic stop. Prosecutors will decide within the next two weeks whether to retry former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing in the July 2015 shooting 43-year-old Sam DuBose.
Before court adjourned for the day Monday, Anthony Imel, an FBI image expert, showed the jurors enhanced video of the Scott shooting.
Frames from the enhanced videos show an object, which Imel said was a Taser, behind the men at the time of the shooting. The frames also show Slager picking up the object and dropping it by Scott’s body.
The defense contends the shooting occurred when Scott wrestled away Slager’s stun gun and pointed it at him.
The enhanced video also showed an object in Scott’s left hand at the time of the shooting. There has been testimony that Scott was on his cellphone talking to his mother at the time. But Imel testified that, despite the enhancement, he could offer no opinion as to what that object was.
Levi Miles, who works as an investigator for Slager’s original attorney David Aylor, testified earlier Monday that state investigators interviewed Slager several days after the shooting. The interview took place in Aylor’s office.
During that interview, Miles testified that he played the part of Scott as Slager and he demonstrated for the state agents how the two men wrestled before the shooting. He demonstrated again Monday, getting on the floor of the courtroom as he re-enacted Slager’s account.
Miles testified that, according to Slager, Scott got control of the officer’s stun gun and pointed it at Slager. Miles testified Slager said the two men were close together at the time of the shooting.
The interview occurred before Slager had seen a cellphone video taken by a bystander that shows Scott falling dozens of feet away from Slager after being shot five times in the back. Aylor dropped his representation of Slager once the video became public and Slager was charged with murder.
Also at the initial interview in Aylor’s office was Angela Peterson, an agent for the State Law Enforcement Division.
Peterson said that Slager said the two men wrestled over the Taser and Scott came at the officer with the stun gun.
She said Slager told investigators he was scared, fatigued from chasing after Scott and worried that if he was hit by the stun gun, Scott would get his service pistol. Peterson said Slager described getting up off the ground, shuffling to his left and Scott starting to turn away as Slager began firing.
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