Prosecution witnesses testifying at the murder trial of a former North Charleston police officer said Monday that his initial account of the shooting differed from what was captured on a cellphone video captured by a bystander.
The trial of Michael Slager, who was fired from the city’s police department and charged with murder in the death of 50-year-old Walter Scott, entered its third week Monday.
The 35-year-old 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. The pursuit began when Scott ran after being pulled over for a broken taillight.
The trial is being heard by one black and 11 white jurors. Slager is white. Scott was black.
Levi Miles, who works as an investigator for Slager’s original attorney David Aylor, testified Monday that state investigators interviewed Slager several days after the shooting. The interview took place in Aylor’s office.
During that interview, Miles testified 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 to the ground 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 started firing.
Over the weekend, another predominantly white jury deadlocked in another 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.
Earlier in Monday’s testimony, North Charleston police Sgt. James Gann and Lt. Daniel Bowman said they raced to the scene in their cruisers after Slager radioed he was pursuing Scott on foot following the traffic stop.
Gann testified that when he arrived, Scott had bullet wounds and was face down on the ground. He said he performed CPR on Scott until emergency medical personnel arrived. He said Scott was unresponsive throughout.
Both officers testified that when they got to the scene, Slager told them he and Scott had wrestled and that Scott got control of Slager’s Taser.
Gann testified Slager told him Scott “stood up, pointed the Taser at him and that’s when he deployed his department-issued firearm.” He added “my understanding was Mr. Scott had the Taser and they were fairly close together – 3 or 4 feet.”
Bowman also testified that Slager told him Scott was facing him with the Taser.
The video shows Slager shooting eight times at Scott’s back from yards away as the motorist fled from the traffic stop.