Former police officer Donald Best analyzes the Walter Scott shooting raw video (#walterscott)

Citizen’s video prevented police cover-up of Walter Scott murder

By now you have probably seen the citizen video showing South Carolina police officer Michael T. Slager firing eight shots at the back of an unarmed man running from him. The victim, Walter Scott, age 50, died after being hit five times including once through his heart. Officer Slager is charged with his murder. (New York Times article with slow motion video)

According to the initial news accounts Walter Scott had been stopped for a burned out taillight but faced arrest for contempt of court for failing to pay child support. Whatever confrontation happened prior to the video is unclear, and at the immediate beginning of the video it looks like Scott or the officer could have dropped an object on the ground in front of the officer (said by some to be the officer’s Taser). There is also a second object that bounces on the ground behind the officer at about the time he is drawing his pistol.

What is clear from the video though is that Scott was running away from the officer, and was about 25 feet / 7 meters away when the police officer fired the first shot into his back. Scott kept running and the distance increased as Officer Slager fired off another quick six shots at Scott’s back. Then as Scott staggered, Officer Slager paused, took careful aim and fired a final controlled shot into Scott’s back. I wonder if that was the shot that pierced Scott’s heart because he went down immediately.

Police Officer does not behave as if he is fearful of Scott

Scott goes down grabbing his mid left side and only then does Officer Slager walk over and handcuff him. As he walks, the officer is not pointing his weapon at Scott and thus is not in fear of his life at that point. That is not the normal action of a police officer who believes a person might be armed. Even if an armed suspect has been shot eight times, any police officer would keep aiming at the suspect until the weapon had been retrieved and the suspect secured. That seems to indicate that Slager did not believe Scott had a weapon when he shot him.  

After handcuffing Scott at about 54 seconds into the video the officer immediately runs back to where he had been standing during the shooting, where he bends over and picks up an object. A second officer (black) arrives near Scott at this time.

Officer Slager returns to Scott and drops what appears to be the Taser near Scott, and while the other officer is present. Slater is later seen picking up an object from the ground near the handcuffed man at about 3:09 into the video. Did Slager attempt to plant evidence near Scott? That is one interpretation but we’ll have to wait for the complete evidence and perhaps some frame by frame video analysis.

As this was happening, a citizen made a video, probably with a cell phone. I have little doubt that the video prevented Slager and other police officers from covering-up the shooting or fabricating evidence. Not that they might not have tried, but we’ll have to wait for the evidence to see if they did. Slager didn’t seem to realize that a video was being made, so it will be interesting to learn at his trial just what story he told to the other officers at the scene and during the formal investigation before the video became known.

Some people who do not realize that their actions are being recorded by video cameras or audio devices fabricate evidence or lie to the courts. We have seen more and more of this lately not only with police officers but with lawyers as well, as video-capable cell phones became ubiquitous.

That is exactly what happened in my case, Donald Best vs. Gerald Ranking, when certain lawyers didn’t know that I had recorded our telephone conversation. They fabricated a false ‘Statement for the Record’ and then lied to the Court about what I had told them and what they said to me during our telephone conversation.

New technology like the Apple Watch will presumably bring more, and more unobtrusive, video and audio recording devices into situations where lying police and lawyers have never before had to fear that their perjury and other criminal actions could be conclusively and irrefutably proven by ordinary citizens.

Privacy is important and as a society we are still working out the social changes and laws made necessary by new technologies like the Internet and cell phone cameras. For instance in Canada in 2009, we made it a criminal offence to recklessly distribute Identity Information.

But as a citizen and a former police officer who was sentenced to three months in solitary confinement on provably false evidence fabricated by lawyers who thought they could get away with it, I welcome the new technologies that allow ordinary citizens to make rogue police officers and lawyers accountable for their actions.

One comment

  • That is a powerful and credible analysis. I never thought about it but that’s right: the officer does not appoach the man with fear or caution. If anything he is careless, could care less, not thinking about it as one would expect if the suspect was armed.

    Excellent analysis!