View Full Version : South Carolina ex-police officer indicted in Walter Scott killing

06-08-2015, 02:41 PM
From Shawn Nottingham (http://www.cnn.com/profiles/shawn-nottingham), CNN
Updated 12:28 PM ET, Mon June 8, 2015

(CNN)South Carolina prosecutor Scarlett Wilson said Monday that a grand jury has indicted former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager on a murder charge.

Slager is accused of shooting and killing motorist Walter Scott (http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/08/us/south-carolina-who-was-walter-scott/). In April, Slager pulled Scott over, reportedly for a faulty brake light. Video released showed the men talking then Scott getting out of his vehicle and running away.

According to a police report, Scott, a 50-year-old African-American man, did not comply with an officer's demands and tried to grab Slager's stun gun. Slager is white.

A widely circulated video taken by a bystander with a phone shows Scott attempting to run. His back is to Slager, who, from a few yards away, raises his gun and fires.

06-09-2015, 11:20 AM
I don't think there are too many people out there who think that this cop was right to shoot the guy. He didn't just shoot him, he shot him repeatedly. It's not 1st degree murder, as it was not premeditated, but it's definitely 2nd degree.

I'm basing my opinion on the video. A jury will probably have more evidence to look at than just the video.

Adam Wood
06-09-2015, 10:37 PM
I don't think there are too many people out there who think that this cop was right to shoot the guy. He didn't just shoot him, he shot him repeatedly. It's not 1st degree murder, as it was not premeditated, but it's definitely 2nd degree.

I'm basing my opinion on the video. A jury will probably have more evidence to look at than just the video.That does not matter, even though a whole lot of people will play it up.

This cannot be repeated enough, because it almost never sinks in, but it would not matter if Slager had shot Scott 1000 times. When your gun comes out, when you fire, you fire until the threat is eliminated. That is how it is done. The "two shots and it's done" business is the stuff of TV and movies, not reality. If you have decided to fire (in the case of a cop), then you have already decided that person needs to die, and you shoot to kill, and you KEEP shooting to kill until the threat is stopped. If stopping a threat takes four shots or seven or twenty-three, you keep on firing until that threat stops, which, in theory, usually means dead. In practice, in the real world, there are actually a whole lot of cases in which the threat actually stops and the threat itself survives. Much of this has to do with modern medical ability and some of it has to do with things like round technology and the fact that the police are often barred from using a bunch of rounds that would typically kill in short order. But that's all digging into minutiae that frankly I don't have the time nor the inclination to get into tonight.

Now, in this particular case, Slager fired at someone who was retreating. That often (but not always) is a bad shooting; it's not impossible that someone who appears to be retreating could still be a threat, perhaps a greater one, but it's relatively rare. So let's set this particular case aside for the moment; it has appeared from the start that this particlar cases was a "bad shoot," so I don't think anyone is actually surprised that Slager was indicted here.

So, let us just dispense with the whole "fired multiple shots" thing here, because that is my focus on this point.

There are, for all practical purposes, two sets of rules: one for cops, and one for civilians. And for good reason: cops have a certain specific set of training, certain requirements and expectations, and they routinely get into different situations than what civilians get into.

Rule 1: cops

It's not uncommon for police to draw their weapon and train it upon someone who MAY be a threat. Drawing and firing are two very different situations in the case of cops. If I'm pulled over for driving what the police reasonably believe may be a stolen car, then it's entirely reasonable, proper, and common for the police to draw their weapon(s) and approach me ready to shoot. The reason for this is that there is a pretty long history of car thieves shooting cops who pull them over. That's one of a thousand different situations in which the police may reasonably draw their weapon and approach me. The difference here is that they do not shoot unless and until they are under a threat that they believe may harm them: I point a gun at the cop, I try to run him over with the car, whatever. So the police may reasonably hold me at gunpoint in order to affect an arrest. They only get to actually fire when they are under direct threat themselves.

Rule 2: civilians

If I draw my weapon, then it's already time to use it. I can't just go around pointing my gun at anyone I think might threaten me in some way. There's a term for that: it's called "assault with a deadly weapon." So when I'm out and about, my weapon must be holstered at all times unless there is some other damned good reason to have it out. I'm not allowed to go around town just brandishing my weapon about. If I am in a situation in which I believe that my life or safety may be in order, or if I am in a situation in which someone else's life (say, yours) or safety may be in danger, then I may draw my weapon, but if I do, then I must be ready to fire immediately, and my firing must be shooting to kill. While there are indeed circumstances in which the threat in question may immediately yield prior to me drawing my weapon, that is not a situation to be counted upon. The moment my weapon leaves its holster, I have already decided that the threat in question must die. If I have not come to that conclusion, then I may be subject to prosecution for assault with a deadly weapon or possibly attempted murder, depending upon the circumstances.

Got that much? That part is important to understand before moving on to the other part.

Whether cop or civilian, once the firing starts, the number of shots does not matter. I am, as a civilian, expected to use lethal force until the threat is neutralized. In the case of civilians, this most often means death. So I fire until the attacker (either the guy attacking me or the guy attacking you) stops entirely. He may yield and put his hands up and "cry uncle," but that typically isn't the case. What's important here is that I may fire one shot or five or seven or eighteen (my particular carry weapon is a 17+1, meaning seventeen rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber), but I keep firing until the moment that he stops his attack, and the greatest likelihood is that one of those rounds is fatal, usually instantly fatal (shot straight through the heart or directly into the brain typically). Once he yields, though, I must stop firing. In the case of the police, the rules are essentially the same once the firing starts: keep shooting until the threat stops. But the same thing applies: whether it takes one shot or ten thousand, keep shooting until the threat stops.

As such, it does not matter how many shots Slager fired at or into Scott. What matters is that he fired in the first place, not how many shots were fired.