The white police officer who fatally shot a fleeing black man in the US city of North Charleston has been fired after he was charged with murder, the mayor says.
Speaking at a highly charged press conference on Wednesday, mayor Keith Summey said the city had moved quickly to fire the officer after Saturday’s shooting.
‘I will also let you know that the officer was terminated. He is no longer here,’ he said, vowing to speed the introduction of body cameras to be worn by police to record alleged abuses.
In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he had not spoken to president Barack Obama about the case, but that video footage of the shooting was ‘awfully hard to watch.’
‘It’s an example of how body cameras worn by police officers could have a positive impact in terms of build and trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve,’ he said.
The officer, 33-year-old Michael Slager, has been charged with murder after he was filmed shooting father-of-four Walter Scott, 50, repeatedly in the back after a scuffle that began with a traffic stop for a broken tail light.
An unidentified passer-by recorded the chilling incident, in which Scott is seen being shot as he tried to run from Slager, then is handcuffed as he lay fatally wounded.
Slager was charged with murder on Tuesday, and could face a sentence of up to life in prison or the death penalty.
Scott’s father, also named Walter, said the family was devastated by his son’s death, but was grateful for the video evidence.
‘The way he was shooting that gun, it looked like he was trying to kill a deer or something running through the woods. I don’t know whether it was racial or something wrong with his head or what,’ the father told NBC’s Today Show.
‘I thank God they had the video. God has my back. When I saw it, my heart was broken. I said, ‘It can’t be.’ I saw it. I couldn’t take it anymore.’
Slager says into his radio after the shooting that Scott had taken his stun gun, The New York Times said, quoting police reports.
However, the video shows wires from the stun gun extending from Scott’s body, implying that the victim rather than the police officer had been hit as the two men scuffled.
As Scott tries to flee, Slager draws his handgun and shoots eight times toward his back. Scott falls after the last shot.
The officer then approaches Scott, telling him to put his hands behind his back, before putting him in handcuffs.
The killing of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in August was a catalyst for protests and a renewed debate on racism and police tactics.
A jury chose not to indict a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer for the shooting. Since then, other killings by police have prompted protests in cities from coast to coast.
The US Justice Department unearthed what it called damning evidence of racism in the Ferguson police force after Brown’s shooting and says it will take appropriate action in the North Charleston case.