Keith Jones:Now the latest on the death of a man shot by a South Carolina police officer. That officer is charged with murder, was fired from the police force today. Prosecutors gathered — rather protesters, I should say, gathered in front of the North Charleston City Hall this morning. They were carrying signs, as you can see here, and chanting “Black lives matter.” Protestors said police have a habit of harassing African-Americans for small offenses, such as the broken brake light that led to the deadly shooting. A bystander shot this video here of the deadly confrontation Saturday. Officer Michael Slager fired eight shots at Walter Scott as he ran following a traffic stop. The attorney for Scott’s family says the person who recorded the video is cooperating with police. Officer Slager was arrested on murder charges and he’ll remain in jail.
This morning, Slager appeared in court via video without an attorney. A judge ordered the officer be held without bail. The five-year police veteran says he felt threatened, and says Scott tried to grab his stun gun, and that’s sure to be a big part of the defense.
Renee Chenault-Fattah: Well, for more insights in this case, we want to bring in NBC 10 Legal Analyst, Enrique Latoison. He joins us now live from our digital operations center. Enrique, with that video, which shows us really what unfolds, what kind of defense can the police officer mount?
Enrique Latoison: Now, Renee, this is going to be a hard one. This is going to be a stretch. Before I went on the air, I went onto social media and I asked police officers, I said, “Listen. Help me out here. Give me something to work with. I’m not a police officer. Tell me what an officer can be thinking to act in this way.” From everything that was posted on my Facebook, and inbox, unanimously, everyone said this is wrong, there’s no excuse for this, there’s nothing that can justify this behavior.
Now, in answering your question, Renee, and trying to stretch this, I could say an officer could try to argue that he was in fear for his life, and that this video is only a small clip of exactly what happened, and that we didn’t see what took place before the video. And, somehow, when Mr. Scott was running off, he was still in fear for his life and had to neutralize the threat by shooting eight times. But, like I said, this is a stretch.
Keith Jones: Yeah. This video, though, is paramount. Every frame has been analyzed up to this point. In your opinion, how will it be used at the trial?
Enrique Latoison: Well, it’s going to be used to break down whatever the officer tries to use as a defense here. It looks clearly, and I, you know, from my point of view, that he drops something. He goes back and he runs back, to run back and pick this thing up, and come back and place him on the scene. He seems to be tampering with evidence. He doesn’t give any kind of — render any kind of aid. He doesn’t seem to do anything. He doesn’t even break a sweat here. I mean this poor man was running for his life. He was pulled over for a broken tail light and now he’s executed for simply running away. There’s a crime for that. It’s a misdemeanor. It doesn’t justify death.
Renee Chenault-Fattah: You know, Enrique, looking towards the trial, and that’s still a long ways away, any possibility that evidence could be allowed of Mr. Scott’s past arrest record? He’s had a number of charges we understand, but they were non-violent, basically involving child support. Would Slager’s attorneys at all attempt to use that information?
Enrique Latoison: You know, there is going to be a very — it’s going to be very hard to defend this officer in this case. And I would assume that the attorney for this officer is going to try to grasp at straws and try to do something like this. It would be up to a judge to decide whether or not that evidence is prejudicial and whether it can be used to try to sway the jury into thinking somehow Mr. Scott was the aggressor here or somehow still posed a danger to the officer in this case.
Keith Jones: NBC 10 Legal Analyst, Enrique Latoison. Thank you for your insight. Always good to check in with you.
Enrique Latoison: Thank you.
Renee Chenault-Fattah: And for the latest details and more insight into this story, be sure to watch NBC Nightly News tonight at 6:30 right here on NBC 10.