Last year in North Charleston, South Carolina former police officer Michael Slager was shown on video shooting a fleeing, unarmed Black man, Walter Scott, who not once turned to face him or threaten him in any way. The video was circulated widely on social media and in television news programs. Recently, Slager was tried for murder, but the trial ended in a hung jury. Eleven of the jurors were white, and one was Black. Interestingly, in a move that was very unusual, the judge in the case, Judge Newman, read a letter written by the lone dissenter (before the verdict) that stated “I still cannot, without a reasonable doubt, convict the defendant. At the same time, my heart does not want to have to tell the Scott family that the man who killed their son, brother and father is innocent. But with the choices, I cannot and will not change my mind.” Judge Newman rejected the hung jury and ordered further deliberation to take place on Monday, December 12.
Slager fired five shots into the fleeing Walter Scott alleging that he was acting in “self-defense” because Scott grabbed his Taser. This was later shown to be false, and it is very clear that Scott had nothing in his hands as he frantically fled from Slager. The shooting was recorded by a bystander on his cell phone, Feidin Santana. Initially, Santana was reluctant to release the video because of fear of reprisal, which happened recently in another killing of a Black man by the police. That person ended up being sentenced to prison after a period of harassment. Santana’s video revealed a number of lies told by the police, including one report that said that Slager attempted to resuscitate Scott. The video disputed this claim. Santana eventually released the video and an outcry for Slager’s arrest ensued.
If Slager is eventually found guilty he would be charged with either manslaughter or murder. It would be manslaughter if it was determined that he acted out of passion which impaired his thinking. Murder would be the judgment if Slager had malice toward Scott. Whichever way that you look at it, Slager shot to death an unarmed fleeing man, who had not done anything to him. By this very action it is clear that there was some kind of animosity toward Scott, someone Slager had never met. It is quite plausible to call this MURDER due to racism, something all too common in America’s criminal justice (just us) system. The fact that a mistrial occurred points to something being very wrong. Apparently, someone’s perception was impaired (the lone holdout). How can you see a video that shows a clearly frightened and fleeing man being shot 5 times, see evidence that the police report clearly lied, which means there was an attempted cover up, and refuse to see the obvious? Based on the mistrial, it is clear that the lone holdout has impaired judgment. It is also clear that the South Carolina Police Department seems to support the outright murder of a Black man, something that is becoming all too common in America. By now, it is clear that certain segments of America’s law enforcement community have neglected, to a very great extent, to enforce the law, and have taken upon the task of actually skirting the law in order to unjustly murder and imprison people of color, and especially Black men.
Sadly, it becomes necessary to conclude that America has officially become a Police State. When you can’t trust those who are charged with serving and protecting you, you can conclude that they have become the enemy. Of course, we know that all policemen do not fit this mold, but it seems true that a great number of them do, and they seem to have the upper hand, judging from the paltry numbers of them who actually end up convicted of wrongdoing.
What can be done about the maltreatment and outright murder of Black people by the law enforcement establishment in America? The one thing that can serve as a powerful deterrent to this behavior is that of strategically spending our money with ourselves and, while doing so, withholding support from a justice system that refuses to be just. We must wield our collective economic and social power in such a manner that the system is forced to change. A luta continua.