The eyewitness who filmed the moment an unarmed man was shot dead in the back by a police officer has come forward and broken his silence.
Feidin Santana claims that Walter Scott, a 59-year-old black man, was involved in a scuffle on the ground with police officer Michael Slager, and that he was not trying to fight the man but rather get away from his Taser.
‘I remember the police [officer] had control of the situation,’ said Santana.
‘He had control of Scott. And Scott was trying just to get away from the Taser. But like I said, he never used the Taser against the cop.’
He said that he then watched in horror as the officer first shot Scott in the back and then appeared to stage the scene.
Having caught the entire thing on film, he knew he had to reach out to the family.
‘I thought about his position, their situation … If I were to have a family member that would happen [to], I would like to know the truth,’ he told NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt.
‘Mr. Scott didn’t deserve this, and there were other ways that can be used to get him arrested, and that wasn’t the proper way to do that.
Meanwhile, an Indiegogo page has been created to raise money in support of Slager, with donations continuing to come in, and a Facebook page and Twitter account have also been created to support the effort’
‘We’re campaigning to show our Support for Officer Michael T. Slager! We believe in all of our LEOs and want to publicly support them!’ reads the page.
‘Although he may have made mis-steps in judgement he was protecting the community.’
One of the individuals who donated listed their name as Trayvon.
Some in the community gathered near North Charleston City Hall Wednesday evening close to where the shooting took place to remember Scott.
While some held candles and fought back tears, others waved signs with messages that said ‘Walter We All Have Your Back’ and ‘We Are All Human.’
There was also storytelling and at one point the crowd began to chant ‘hands up, don’t shoot.’
The evening ended with a few of the participants observing a moment of silence to honor the life of Scott.
State Rep. Wendell Gilliard was on the scene as well according to The Post and Courier and spoke to everyone in attendance, urging them to get ‘committed, involved and engaged.’
Many also discussed how different this tragedy could have played out if not for Santana filming the entire incident.
There was also a small memorial set up where Scott was shot by some, with flowers and a single teddy bear hanging from a fence.
Earlier in the day, local authorities refused to say on whether other police officers will be charged in the cover-up of an unarmed black father’s fatal shooting by a white cop.
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey would not answer questions on the involvement of other members of the force in the killing of Scott, 50, who was shot five times in the back by Officer Slager in South Carolina.
The 33-year-old patrolman, who is white, initially defended his actions, saying he feared for his life after Scott wrestled his Taser gun from him during a scuffle when he pulled him over for a broken brake light on Saturday morning.
Four days later, anonymous cellphone footage emerged and blew Slager’s story wide open.
The video showed the officer firing eight shots at Scott, a father-of-four, from around 20 feet away while the man had his back turned and was fleeing. Sagler then cuffed Scott’s lifeless body and was seen dropping an object – possibly his service-issue Taser – by his side.
The cop was charged with murder on Tuesday and could face the death penalty.
During a chaotic press conference on Wednesday, demonstrators grew angry after the mayor took over questions directed at Police Chief Eddie Driggers who stepped back from the podium.
Mayor Summey refused to answer questions on other cops’ involvement, citing an independent investigation underway by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
Slager was fired one day after his murder charge but his wife, who is eight months’ pregnant, will still receive insurance from the city until after her baby was born because it was the ‘humane thing to do’, the mayor said.
Mayor Summey and his wife, along with the police chief, visited the Scott family on Wednesday. Mayor Summey said: ‘This has been a horrible tragedy. There have been two families that have been harmed greatly – both the victim’s and the officer’s family.’
The mayor continued: ‘I was taken aback by the warm and kind reception that we received from Scott family. They are an outstanding family within our community. The mother and father are wonderful people and they are suffering.
‘Please pray for this family. We will be there to support them for the funeral with a police escort. Give them the utmost respect and that for the deceased.’
Scott, a veteran of the U.S. Coastguard, leaves a fiancée, his siblings and four children.
The mayor said that 250 body cameras were going to installed on police officers’ uniforms and that drafting of a policy for use was already underway.
Chief Driggers told the press conference that he was ‘sickened’ by the video and had watched it only once.
No other officers had seen what happened at the shooting scene, according to Driggers.
When asked why no one had performed CPR on Scott, Driggers then said he believed one cop had taken off Scott’s shirt and tried to perform life-saving measures.
Driggers said that he had spoken to Walter Scott Sr ‘father to father’ during a visit to the grieving family’s home.
‘I would ask you to give them the respect they deserve during this time,’ Driggers said. ‘We are doing our best as a police department not only to serve but to protect during this time. We are going to continue to strive to do what’s right.’
He added: ‘I have been praying for peace, peace for the family and peace for this community.’
Before the press conference on Tuesday, demonstrators held up signs and chanted: ‘This is what democracy looks like’ and ‘no justice, no peace’.
Driggers said his department had been under ‘no obligation’ to turn over the investigation to an independent body but did so ‘because it was the right thing to do’.
Demonstrators gathered outside city hall earlier on Wednesday, holding signs which read Black Lives Matter, to protest against the latest cop killing at a time of mounting unrest over police use of force in the U.S. – particularly against black men.
The Charleston County Coroner’s Office announced on Wednesday that the 50-year-old’s death was the result of multiple gunshot wounds to the back. The death was deemed a homicide.
The father of Walter Scott told the Today show on Wednesday that the family wanted justice for their son.
‘It would have never come to light. They would have swept it under the rug, like they did with so many others,’ Walter Scott Sr said.
Mr Scott Sr added: ‘The way he [Slager] was shooting that gun, it looked like he was trying to kill a deer… I don’t know whether it was racial, or it was something wrong with his head.’
An outraged representative of Scott’s family added: ‘This was a cop who felt like he could get away with just shooting anybody that many times in the back.’
The footage began rolling in a vacant lot in North Charleston, moments before Slager fired his gun as Scott makes a break to flee.
Scott may have tried to run because he owed child support which can send you to jail in South Carolina, the family attorney said.
After a quick fire of seven shots, then a break until an eighth shot which left Scott on the ground, the cop made his way over to the man who was lying face down.
He then handcuffed his lifeless body before jogging back to where he had fired the shots to pick up an object from the ground – possibly the Taser.
The officer then returned to Scott where a second officer was on the scene. Slager can be seen on video tape appearing to drop an object next to the victim’s body.
The footage also contradicted police claims that officers performed CPR on the suspect. It was only after two-and-a-half minutes that Slager was seen placing his hand on Scott’s neck in an apparent attempt to check his pulse.
Keith Summey, the mayor of North Charleston, termed the killing a ‘bad decision’ at a press conference announcing the charges.
He said: ‘When you’re wrong, you’re wrong. When you make a bad decision, don’t care if you’re behind the shield or a citizen on the street, you have to live with that decision.’
On Monday, Officer Slager’s attorney had issued a statement on his behalf. He said the officer ‘felt threatened and reached for his department-issued firearm and fired his weapon’.
The statement, reported by the The Post and Courier, added: ‘Officer Slager believes he followed all the proper procedures and policies of the North Charleston Police Department’.
In the wake of the murder charges, the lawyer no longer represented the cop.
A lawyer for the Scott family on Tuesday said that the footage shows Slager ‘casually’ taking Scott’s life, and acting as if there would be no repercussions.
Attorney L. Chris Stewart said: ‘This was a cop who felt like he could get away with just shooting anybody that many times in the back. He just casually shot a man that many times in the back.’
He added: ‘At the moment he turned and ran and was not a threat to anybody else that officer was completely unjustified.’
The attorney said the family would also pursue civil charges against Slager, saying they were angry at the way the police department sought to defend the police officer until the video emerged.
He also said that without the video, and the ‘hero’ who recorded it, there would have been no murder charges.
Stewart told TV crews: ‘What happened today doesn’t happen all the time – what if there was no video? What if there was no witness – or hero – to come forward?
‘The initial reports stated something totally different – the officer said Mr Scott attacked him and tried to use his Taser on him. But somebody was watching.’
Scott’s brother, Anthony, spoke after his brother’s death. He said Walter had a fiancée, two siblings and four children.
He told WCIV: ‘My brother is a kind and sweet person. He talked to everybody, knew all our family members by name, anybody that came in touch with Walter loved him.’
‘He loved the [Dallas] Cowboys. We had planned to go to go see them play but I guess that won’t happen now.’
At a press conference on Tuesday evening, Anthony Scott spoke out again.
He said: ‘From the beginning, all we wanted was the truth… we can’t get my brother back and my family is in deep mourning, but the process of justice has been served.
He later added: ‘I don’t wanna see anyone get shot down the way that my brother got shot down.
‘I asked that everyone continue to pray for my family, that we get through this – because we need prayer.’
Meanwhile, the person who filmed the video was speaking with investigators and will come forward publicly ‘at some point,’ the family attorney said.
Activists planned to protest at North Charleston City Hall on Wednesday at 9.30am, but civil rights leaders have called for calm, with many praising the courage of the witness who filmed the killing for coming forward.
‘This is what happens… when people are willing to step up and do the right thing for the right reasons,’ State Representative Justin Bamber told reporters late on Tuesday.
The shooting took place in North Charleston, which is home to about 100,000 people, nearly half of whom are black, according to U.S. Census data from 2010.
By contrast, only about 18 per cent of its police department’s roughly 340 officers are black, the local Post and Courier newspaper reported last year.
According to the Post and Courier, Scott had a warrant out for his arrest from family court at the time of his death.
He has been arrested around ten times, mostly for contempt of court charges for failing to pay child support, included one accusation of a violation stemming from an assault and battery charge in 1987, the paper reported.
Slager, also formerly a member of the Coast Guard, had not previously been disciplined by the department, the Post and Courier said.
He has two stepchildren and a pregnant wife.
The paper reported that in 2013 a man accused him of shooting him with a stun gun without cause, but that Slager was cleared of wrongdoing by an internal police investigation.
The shooting occurred at a time of heightened scrutiny over police officer shootings, particularly those that involve white officers and unarmed black suspects.
A grand jury declined to indict white Ferguson officer Darren Wilson over the fatal shooting of Brown last August, sparking nationwide protests.
Outgoing federal Attorney General Eric Holder has threatened Ferguson with a lawsuit if it fails to fulfill a set of recommendations to overhaul its law enforcement and municipal court system.
Thousands also protested in the streets last year after the death of 43-year-old Eric Garner, who gasped ‘I can’t breathe’ as police arrested him for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.
In a separate case in South Carolina, a white police officer who shot a 68-year-old black man dead last year in his driveway was charged yesterday with discharging a gun into an occupied vehicle.
A prosecutor previously tried to indict North Augusta officer Justin Craven on a manslaughter charge in the February 2014 death of Ernest Satterwhite.
But a grand jury instead chose misconduct in office, which is a far lesser charge.
Craven chased Satterwhite for nine miles beyond city limits to the man’s driveway in Edgefield County.
After Satterwhite parked, the officer repeatedly fired through the driver-side door, prosecutors said.
The 25-year-old officer faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the gun charge.
North Charleston is South Carolina’s third-largest city and for years battled back from an economic slump caused by the closing of the Charleston Naval Base on the city’s waterfront in the mid-1990s.
But now the city has bounced back in a big way, largely in part to the huge investment by Boeing.
The aircraft manufacturer has a 787 aircraft manufacturing plant in the city and employs about 7,500 people in South Carolina, most of them in North Charleston.