A white police officer in South Carolina was charged with murder Tuesday in the videotaped shooting death of a 50-year-old black man who appeared to be unarmed and fleeing.
The graphic video, said to have been recorded Saturday by a bystander and released Tuesday, appears to show North Charleston officer Michael Slager shooting Walter Scott eight times in the back following an earlier incident, in which Slager stopped Scott over a broken taillight, The Post and Courier reports. Scott had a warrant out for his arrest and apparently tried to take the officer’s stun gun; the officer said that he feared for his life.
Saturday’s shooting follows several high-profile incidents in Ferguson and New York City last year in which white officers were involved in the deaths of unarmed black men. Those cases, as well as the decisions by grand juries not to indict the officers involved, spurred nationwide calls for police departments to adopt body cameras that would record confrontations between citizens and police while possibly altering officers’ behavior. While some officials believe body cameras won’t effectively prevent incidents like Scott’s shooting, some police departments have appeared to show success using them, including in Rialto, Calif., which found a reduction in officer complaints and use of force incidents when using cameras.
“If we don’t act and act with expediency, these types of incidents will continue to happen,” State Representative Wendell Gilliard, who has sponsored two bills related to body cameras in the state, told TIME on Tuesday. One would set up a task force to determine the cost of outfitting police with body cameras while another would mandate all officers statewide to wear them. Both have failed to get out of committee and could face a potential veto from Republican Governor Nikki Haley.
Gilliard and State Senator Marlon Kimpson, who has also sponsored a body camera bill, are calling for the legislature to take up the issue again. Rep. Gilliard says he will urge the House’s judicial committee to move the bill to the floor when the legislature reconvenes next week.
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