A South Carolina judge on Thursday sentenced a White former North Charleston police officer to 20 years in prison for shooting and killing an unarmed Black motorist following a traffic stop in 2015, according to the Associated Press.
U.S. District Judge David Norton had already ruled earlier in the day that Michael Slager was guilty of the second-degree murder of Walter Scott and obstruction of justice. Scott’s mother said in court that she forgave Slager, according to ABC News.
Slager gunned down Water Scott, while he fled from a traffic stop in 2015, USA Todayreported.
“I think everybody’s just ready to close this chapter of life and start the next chapter. But all of them end the same way, and that is that Walter’s not here,” Justin Bamberg, an attorney for the Scott family, told the Associated Press. While the family wants closure and whatever amount of time the judge give the ex-cop, Bamberg said Slager deserves life behind bars.
After Slager’s state murder trial ended in a hung jury, he pleaded guilty to federal charges. Slager had stopped Scott for a broken tail light on April 4, 2015. But he fled on foot, likely because he feared getting arrested for unpaid child support, his family has said. A video tape, which sent shock waves around the world, shows Slager pulling out his gun and shooting Scott multiple times in the back. It was recorded by a bystander on his mobile phone. Slager had claimed that Scott attempted to grab his stun gun during a struggle and he feared for his life before shooting the unarmed man.
The sentencing hearing will include testimony about whether the fatal shooting was voluntary manslaughter or murder. Prosecutors plan to argue that he’s guilty of murder and seek a life sentence. However, Slager’s legal team has said the former police officer would be unsafe in prison and shouldn’t be locked away for life. Scotts’ family settled its wrongful death lawsuit with the city for $6.5 million.