Day 4 of testimony in the Slager Trial
The second week of the murder trial of Walter Scott started with testimony from law enforcement personnel. Scott was shot and killed by then North Charleston police officer Michael Slager. 34-year-old Slager is charged with murdering Scott on April 4, 2015. Slager was captured on cellphone video firing repeatedly at Scott as he fled a traffic stop for a broken brake light.
At least three members of the North Charleston Police Department who responded to the shooting that day testified. Slager told multiple colleagues his version of events. The defense also established staffing issues with the police department that day.
Former North Charleston Officer Clarence Habersham was out serving a bench warrant the morning Slager stopped Scott. The other officer scheduled to be on patrol in the same area was on another errand. Defense Attorney Andy Savage used police logs to show how short staffed Slager’s patrol unit that day. Less than 50 percent of the officers normally scheduled for the area were working that day, Habersham confirmed to Savage that officers within the patrol zone are normally less than two minutes away from each other. On April 4, 2015 it took longer for other officers to arrive on scene.
Habersham was the first on scene and started chest compressions on Scott until emergency medical personnel arrived.
North Charleston Police Lieutenant Daniel Bowman testified next. He has been with the force almost 23 years. Bowman said Slager volunteered details of the incident, but it is standard practice that the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division investigates officer involved shootings.
According to what Slager told Bowman, there was a struggle for the Taser and Scott was able to gain control. Bowman testified Slager said he commanded Scott to drop the Taser. When he didn’t listen Slager fired his gun at Scott.
Slager was taken to the hospital to address wounds on his fingers and knees, which Bowman said is common practice.
North Charleston Police Department Sergeant James Gann testified he was in the midst of a traffic stop when he heard Slager say he was in a foot chase and he headed to the scene.
Gann was involved in Taser training at the North Charleston Police Department.
Gann said officers are not trained to shoot suspects as they are running away. He seemed to offer contradictory responses to questions by both the defense and prosecution about whether a suspect running away is considered to be de-escalation. He first said it could be interpreted as an act of de-escalation and then upon cross examination he said through the video it didn’t seem to be.
Savage introduced doubt that Slagaer knew Scott was unarmed. He points out Scott was not frisked prior to the shooting.
Bryan Chiles does testing at Taser International, a company that makes the electric stun devices.
He explained the pulses of electricity that are emitted when a Taser is deployed cause muscles to lock up. Chiles analysis of the weapon shows it was activated six five second bursts April 4, 2015 around the time of the shooting. Slager has told law enforcement he deployed the Taser at least three times. Chiles was not able to comment on the effectiveness of the Taser deployments.