A Disturbing Conclusion

Walter Scott had been a member of the U.S. Coast Guard.Last Saturday morning, Walter Scott, an African-American who was fifty years old and a father of four, was driving his Mercedes-Benz in North Charleston, South Carolina. The car had a busted taillight. He got pulled over by a white cop. Now he’s dead.

News outlets have jumped all over the story of the officially alleged murder and supplied us with plenty of details, the most salient of which is that a fleeing Scott was shot in the back several times by Patrolman 1st Class Michael Slager, who had initially claimed, as The New York Times phrased it, that “he had feared for his life because the man had taken his stun gun in a scuffle.”

Yeah, well. If it had not been for a fortuitous video of the event, which apparently Officer Slager didn’t know existed, news outlets would have reported a much different story, one that would have focused on the “official” version of events and that, as usual, would have given the police a generous benefit of the doubt. And Ryan Grim and Nick Wing, of HuffPo, wrote the story we would most likely have read, absent the video evidence. Given what we now know, it is a fascinating read and absolutely plausible. Here is its lede:

A North Charleston police officer was forced to use his service weapon Saturday during a scuffle with a suspect who tried to overpower him and seize the officer’s Taser, authorities said.

The man, who has a history of violence and a long arrest record, died on the scene as a result of the encounter, despite officers performing CPR and delivering first aid, according to police reports.

Two years ago, Slager had been exonerated by his bosses for an incident in which excessive force was involved. You can read about that disturbing incident via the Associated Press. But the thing to focus on in this case, other than the sad and unnecessary killing by police of yet another unarmed African-American citizen, is that nearly everything of importance that Officer Slager, and another officer who arrived first on the shooting scene, said happened that morning has been discredited. And the thing that discredited their official version, a cell phone video, hasn’t been around that long. So, we are left to wonder—no, we are left to conclude—that there are any number of past incidents, involving the questionable killing of citizens by the police, in which the officers involved literally got away with some form of murder.

If that conclusion doesn’t bother you, if it doesn’t scare you, then you’re not black.

6 Comments

  1. I too have been following the North Charleston story with interest and the primary question in my mind is about the motivation of this cop and others. I don’t think Slager set out that morning to bag some black guy. That makes no sense. No, I think it was the combination of a culture of racial bigotry and rage. Rage is the fight-or-flight instinct that resides in all humans to some extent, and when it is enabled by bias, this is what you sometimes get.

    Walter Scott was probably scared that this traffic stop might escalate into further trouble about his deficit on child-support payments. He resisted Slager in some way, according to the video-shooting witness, and then ran away. Slager, enraged at this effrontery, then murdered him for it by shooting him in the back 5 times.

    I will say again what I said about the Ferguson killing. Cops ought to be required to wear and us personal video cams for every confrontation and under strict protocols. There is evidence that this would have a restraining effect on both cops and those they encounter. Doing this properly will doubtless be a training-hurdle. I note in today’s news that Slager’s car had a dash cam, but it captured none of the confrontation. What a coincidence.

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    • It appears your call for cops everywhere to have body cams is gaining momentum. It seems the sensible idea is being presented now as a way of monitoring police interactions with the public because it has become apparent that the police don’t always give us an accurate account of events when no one is looking.

      The dash cam video I saw in the Scott case makes it clear that Scott posed exactly no threat to Slager. None. As you said, Scott was just eager to get the hell out of a situation for whatever reason. Maybe he was thinking about what happened to other black men in his situation, who knows.

      But what bothers me is the way some cops–some cops–are all too eager to take aim and fire their weapons, as if they get some sort of rush out of it. I don’t know if you have ever seen any of those hunting shows on cable TV–the ones where the moose hunters or duck hunters, after “outsmarting” their prey, kill them and then get all wet in the pants over what they have done–but there is something inside some folks that make killing living things an exciting, exhilarating adventure (those who kill for sport and not survival). And it appears that at least a few of those kind of people sign up to be cops.

      Duane

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      • No doubt about it, Duane. There is much that’s genetic in this. Fishing and hunting in America today is certainly not about food, what with the known pollution and disease that affects the prey. It’s the thrill, although how one gets a thrill out of blowing Bambi away with a high-powered, telescopic, laser-pointed rifle is just beyond me.

        My father was an avid hunter and fisherman, but even though I fished and went pheasant hunting with him, I was never really interested in it. His genes resurfaced in only one of our three sons, but did so strongly. I never taught the one, yet he is the reincarnation of his grandfather in this respect.

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      • Anonymous

         /  April 11, 2015

        Duane and Jim, your conversation reminded me of an experience I had a few years ago at a local church. I had been invited by a friend, whom is a very sweet person, to attend church services with them. I had not been to a Baptist church in some time, but I went simply because I liked this person so much, and still do. A local B- rate celebrity was speaking that day and his subject was deer hunting. He spoke of putting blood on his young boy’s face after they had killed a deer and spoke of “blood letting” and tying it into a biblical experience. It was very weird to me. I grew up in a mostly Catholic environment in the 70s-80s in NE Michigan, an area with deep hunting traditions. I can tell you, I had NEVER heard of hunting placed into a biblical context before. Nor did we spread blood on each other. Needless to say, I have not gone back to this church. It was the strangest thing I had ever seen in a church, and this was before the whole “Obama wants to take your guns” hysteria.

        I think genetics plays a roll, as Jim suggests, in the ability to kill things. But today I think it also falls into a political/religious realm as well. (Remember the local church that was raffling an assault rifle that was discussed here?) It seems to be a requirement into the Conservative world that one must love guns and hunting and killing people who wrong you. We entered the world of hunting, gun training, and gun safety at the age of 12 in Michigan. Training was required and it was never questioned as a constitutional violation. It was always a rifle or shot gun. We were trained for hunting and it never involved hand guns. Those were for the adults. We had also lived in Saginaw Mi, a fairly high crime area and I do not recall the adults in my life being obsessed with shooting people. Nor were we concerned with carrying a gun everywhere or whether the state had a right to force training on us. These are strange days we are living in! I used to consider myself somewhat right of center. I doubt I qualify any more!

        Kevin Beck

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  2. Ben Field

     /  April 10, 2015

    I lived in West Ashley, across the river from North Charleston in 1989-1992 and noticed less overt racism compared to Missouri. It was more subtle, but prevalent. These genteel Southerners can kill a man and rationalize their actions with a syrupy, politeness that would make Grim and Wing’s article seem crass. I am sure even given the video evidence, many conservatives who never fault the police, will still support this officer because “ordinary” citizens do not understand the pressures on the law enforcement community. I doubt this is the first or last time that a black man will be shot like a rabid dog in the street. This video and Jim’s suggestion that body cameras be required will at least give unbiased evidence when officers lie about the facts. I have little doubt that a 50 year old white man in the same situation would not have been shot, so to deny this an exhibit of racism is without merit.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bbob

     /  April 16, 2015

    To a large extent, I blame the militarization of the police forces for killings like this. Swat teams with their excess weaponry are examples. We need the police to go back to their previous aims of “protect and serve.”

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