Fri | Dec 15, 2017

White ex-cop gets 20 years for Walter Scott slaying

Published:Friday | December 8, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Former South Carolina officer, Michael Slager, right, walks from the Charleston County Courthouse under the protection of the Charleston County Sheriff's Department after a mistrial was declared for his trial in Charleston, S.C. Slager, who fatally shot a black motorist, Walter Scott, in 2015, could learn his fate as soon as his federal sentencing hearing winds down.

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (AP):

One by one, relatives of the late Walter Scott urged a judge to mete out a significant punishment for Michael Slager, the white former police officer who fatally shot Scott, an unarmed black man, in the back after a 2015 traffic stop.

Through tears, Scott's family told Slager they felt sorrow for him and the loss his young children would feel in his absence. In the end, a judge sentenced Slager to 20 years in prison, giving the Scott family the justice they had sought ever since a stranger came to them with the shocking video of Scott being killed.

"I forgive Michael Slager. I forgive you," Scott's mother, Judy, said as she turned toward her son's killer. "I pray for you, that you would repent and let Jesus come in your life."

Sitting just a few feet away, Slager wiped tears from his eyes and mouthed: "I'm sorry."

The punishment wrapped up a case that became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement. Slager, 36, is one of only a few police officers to go to prison for a fatal shooting, and his sentence is by far the stiffest since the shootings came under extra scrutiny in recent years.

Attorneys for the former North Charleston officer said he shot the 50-year-old Scott in self-defense after the two fought and Scott grabbed Slager's stun gun. They said race didn't play a role in the shooting and Slager never had any "racial animus" toward minorities.

Still, Slager pleaded guilty in federal court to violating Scott's civil rights. As part of a plea agreement reached in May, prosecutors dropped state murder charges.

"This is a tragedy that shouldn't have happened," US District Judge David Norton said.

Slager apologised to the Scott family, calling Scott's mother and brothers by their names.