Ex-Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager Indicted in Shooting Death of Walter Scott

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — A federal grand jury has indicted ex-North Charleston police officer Michael Slager on three counts for fatally shooting Walter Scott, an unarmed black man.

Slager has been charged with "deprivation of rights under color of law" -- in essence saying Slager violated Scott's constitutionally protected civil rights by shooting him -- use of a weapon during commission of a crime of violence, and obstruction of justice.

The indictment, which alleges use of excessive force, comes just over a year after Slager pulled over Scott for a broken tail light, and a subsequent encounter caught on cell phone video appeared to show Slager shooting Scott in the back, sparking outrage nationwide at a time when the use of force by police became a heated topic of debate.

"The indictment alleges that Slager intentionally misled [state] investigators by claiming that Scott was coming toward him with a taser at the time that Slager fired his weapon, when in truth, Scott was running away," the Department of Justice said in a statement today.

In state court, a grand jury had already indicted Slager on a murder charge that carries a sentence between 30 years and life in prison. He has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge and was released on bond earlier this year. His state trial is set for Oct. 31.

If convicted of the federal charges, Slager faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for the civil rights violation, as well as a potential $250,000 fine, according to the Justice Department.

Slager appeared handcuffed and shackled for his arraignment Wednesday in the U.S. District Court of South Carolina in Charleston, but is expected to be released.

After the arraignment, Scott's family and the family's lawyer, Justin Bamberg, held a news conference to address the indictment.

"It is time that the cover was pulled and I thank God that my son was the one that was used to pull the cover off all of the violence and the cover-ups that have been going on," said Judy Scott, the victim's mother. "I'm happy for that but I'm sad my son is gone."

"Justice will prevail," she added.

Bamberg said that “Today is a bit of joy for not just the Scott family, but the community as a whole, this country as a whole."

The federal court is allowing Slager to remain on his current state bond of half-a-million dollars, and no new bond was set. The brother of Walter Scott spoke in court but did not oppose the set-up of the bond.


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