The Guardian reports that the indictment came two months after Slager was filmed shooting Scott in the back eight times after running away from him during a routine traffic stop. The April 4th shooting prompted vehement criticism of the North Charleston Police Department as well as police departments across the country for what some believe to be the rampant use of lethal force by law enforcement officials, especially against minority communities.
“We will move forward now in preparing our case,” said the head prosecutor of the case, Scarlett Wilson. “Really the prosecution work has just begun.”
The grand jury indictment indicated that Slager killed Scott “with malice aforethought.” If convicted, Slager faces a possible sentence of 30 years to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The North Charleston Police Department initially reported that Slager shot Scott after Scott had taken the officer’s taser and made him feel threatened. However, footage of the shooting was caught by a random bystander on his cell phone, showing that Scott was running away from Slager empty-handed. The footage also appears to show Slager tried to place the taser gun close to his body, making it seem as though Scott had it with him as he was running.
After the footage was released, Slager was promptly fired from the police department and placed under arrest for Scott’s murder. He is currently being held under protection at a local county jail.
“The wheels of justice [are] turning the right way,” said Chris Stewart, the Scott family’s attorney. “The Scott family is as happy as can be, but of course the indictment does not make them whole for the loss they have suffered.”
The case highlights the importance of recording devices in law enforcement. Recent cases involving the excessive use of force by police officers have led some critics to recommend that police officers wear body cameras while on duty. Many police departments already use dash camera video systems in patrol cars. Today, 72% of state police and highway patrol cars come equipped with such video systems.