While the video of the Scott shooting itself is pretty damning, I thought I should offer my professional perspective on why Slager SHOULD be convicted of murder.
Scott’s Shooting Was Illegal Even Before Tennessee v. Garner
Until 1985 the law allowed officers to shoot fleeing felons, to prevent their escape, and by extension deter flight and encourage peaceful surrender by said felons. Even under this near blank death warrant, Slager couldn’t justify shooting Scott, as the only offense he knew Scott to have comitted was a petty equipment violation, and evading arrest on foot, which is a misdemeanor included in the statute for resisting arrest under South Carolina law. As far as Slager knew, Scott was not a fleeing felon.
Following Tennessee v. Garner, the law required that an officer have a reasonable belief that even a known fleeing felon pose a significant theat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or others, before deadly force can be used to prevent escape. Without a deadly weapon in hand, a suspect basically has to be an undisputed threat to those around him, like a know mass murderer, serial killer, etc, where it is reasonable to believe that the suspect will almost certainly seriously harm others as soon as they obtain a weapon to do it with. Even if Scott’s warrant was a felony Slager clearly didn’t believe that about Scott.
Escape Was Highly Unlikely
Even if Scott was a known dangerous felon, Slager would still have to reasonably believe that failure to shoot Scott would lead to his escape. Slager caught Scott, despite Scott’s primal fear of arrest fueling his flight, Scott’s head start, and Slager’s patrol gear slowing him down. That is clear evidence that Scott’s turkey was cooked! All Slager had to do was chase Scott a few more seconds, so he could guide his fresh backup to Scott’s general location, and the game would have been over! In fact, in the video of the shooting, Slager has a second officer at Scott’s body less than one minute after the shooting.
Slager’s Taser Was Not a Deadly Weapon
Even if Scott still had the Taser that Slager claimed he tried to take, it was almost certainly not a deadly weapon in it’s condition at the time of the shooting. Slager’s dash cam audio recorded him shouting “Taser! Taser! Taser!”, followed by the telltale sparking sound, telling us that Slager fired the Taser, but that he did not successfully complete the circuit through Scott’s body meaning that Scott would not have been incapacitated. This is confirmed, shortly after, when Slager starts shouting “get on the ground!” and his DVR microphone auidio breaks up then stops, suggesting that Slager (and Scott) moved too far from the patrol car for the microphone to transmit.
Now, Slager may have had a reload for his Taser, but unless Slager reloaded his Taser then Scott managed to grab the newly reloaded Taser before Slager fired it again, or the Taser had a handle-mounted reload that Scott knew how to load, both of which are highly improbable, there would not be an unfired cartridge available to Scott, even if he did get Slager’s Taser. Without an unfired cartridge, all Scott could do with the Taser is inflict pain, with a “drive stun,” not incapacite Slager, and Slager would have learned that in basic Taser training.
Tasers Are Hard to Use Effectively
Now let’s look at the most Slager-friendly scenario left. Let’s assume that Scott did get full control of Slager’s Taser, with an unfired cartridge loaded and ready to fire. Contrary to popular belief, the Taser is not easy to use effectively.
First, to get the incapacitating effect that Taser’s are famous for, you must hit two different parts of the target’s body at the same time. All Tasers have a laser sight to mark where the top probe should impact the target, but there’s no second laser to tell you where the lower probe should impact, and that probe fires diagonally down at an angle, making it increasingly difficult to hit with both probes as the target gets further away.
The maximum range of the Taser cartridges used by most law enforcement agencies is 21′, which is the length of the wires in the cartridge. However, at that range, the probe spread is about 3′, which means that unless the target is over 6′ tall, standing perfectly still, you’ve got a rock-solid arm, you perfectly place the top probe at the base of the target’s neck, with your Taser perfectly vertical, you are about as likely to win Powerball as hit with both probes. Hitting a moving target following a foot chase and struggle, you’ll be lucky to get a hit at arm’s length.
In other words, even if you believed Slager’s story, Slager had no legitimate reason to fear for his life, unless Scott was right on top of him (facing towards him) at the time of the shooting, which clearly was far from reality.
Slager Murdered Scott
While definitions vary from state to state, the concept is the same. Slager knowingly and intentionally fired eight rounds at Scott, as he fled, knowing that he had no legitimate reason to fear that Scott would escape, nor that failure to prevent Scott’s escape would result in serious injury or death to anyone. Slager had absolutely no justification in shooting Scott.
What do you think? Is something being missed in the discussion? Do you think the PD intended to cover for Slager, if the video of the shooting hadn’t been released to the media?