Former North Charleston, South Carolina, Police Department (NCPD) Officer Michael Slager, 35, pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights offense for his fatal shooting of Walter Scott, Jr. on April 4, 2015.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Beth Drake of the District of South Carolina, Special Agent in Charge Alphonse “Jody” Norris of the FBI’s Columbia Division, Solicitor Scarlett A. Wilson of the Ninth Judicial Circuit and Chief Mark Keel of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) announced today’s guilty plea, which took place in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. The plea will resolve both the federal and the state cases pending against Michael Slager. Prior to entry of the guilty plea, jury selection in the federal trial had been scheduled to begin on May 9, and a state trial had been set for August.
According to documents filed in connection with the guilty plea, Michael Slager, while acting as an NCPD Officer, willfully used deadly force on Walter Scott even though it was objectively unreasonable under the circumstances. Slager had stopped Scott’s vehicle after observing that a brake light was not working. During the stop, Scott fled on foot and Slager pursued him. During the foot chase, Slager deployed his Taser and Scott fell to the ground. Scott managed to get off of the ground and again run away. Scott was unarmed and running away when Scott fired eight shots at him from his department-issued firearm. Five shots hit Scott, with all of the bullets entering from behind. Scott died as a result of the injuries from Slager’s gunshots.
“The Department of Justice will hold accountable any law enforcement officer who violates the civil rights of our citizens by using excessive force,” said Attorney General Sessions. “Such failures of duty not only harm the individual victims of these crimes; they harm our country, by eroding trust in law enforcement and undermining the good work of the vast majority of honorable and honest police officers. As our Department works to support the courageous and professional law enforcement personnel who risk their lives every day to protect us, we will also ensure that police officers who abuse their sacred trust are made to answer for their misconduct.”
“Our hearts are with the Scott family today. They have persevered in their quest for justice for their loved one, and I hope that today brings them a measure of closure,” said U.S. Attorney Drake. “I also want to thank both Solicitor Wilson of the Ninth Judicial Circuit and South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel for their efforts to secure justice in this matter.”
“The resolution of this investigation protects the integrity of law enforcement, maintains the confidence of the community, and ensures justice is served in a fair and impartial manner,” said Special Agent in Charge Norris. “The cooperation between the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Charleston County Solicitor's Office, the Civil Rights Division, and the FBI Columbia Division was paramount in bringing this case to a successful conclusion.”
“This conviction is prime example of the strong results we can get when federal and state authorities work together,” said Solicitor Wilson. “We are grateful for the Department of Justice for their role in obtaining justice for the Scotts with this conviction and in moving our community forward through their hard work.”
“SLED’s role in any criminal investigation is to discover the facts of the case and report them,” said Chief Keel. “For the men and women of SLED, working closely with our partners in the Ninth Circuit Solicitor’s Office, the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, today’s plea is the culmination of our collaboration.”
“This disposition is the product of the excellent work of state and local law enforcement. I am proud of the leadership of U.S. Attorney Beth Drake and the critical work of the FBI. The teamwork in this case represents the best in law enforcement,” added Attorney General Sessions.
Sentencing is set for XXXX. Slager faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for the federal civil rights violation, as well as a potential $250,000 fine. Both federal prosecutors and Solicitor Wilson will have the opportunity to address the Court at sentencing.
The case was investigated by the FBI’s Columbia Division and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. The federal case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric Klumb and Alyssa Richardson of the District of South Carolina and Special Litigation Counsel Jared Fishman and Trial Attorney Rose Gibson of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. The state case is being prosecuted by Scarlett A. Wilson and the Office of the Solicitor of the Ninth Judicial Circuit.