Emotional scenes engulfed a South Carolina courtroom yesterday when ex-police officer Michael Slager was sentenced to 20 years for the second-degree murder of Walter Scott in 2015.
The officer had been in pursuit of Walter after a routine traffic stop got out of hand, and Scott had fled on foot. Slager eventually caught up with him, and the two engaged in a physical altercation during which Slager fired two Taser cartridges at Scott.
As Scott turned and ran, Slager was caught on camera firing off eight rounds at Scott, striking him a total of five times: three times in the back, once in the upper buttocks, and once on one of his ears. Scott died from his injuries.
The footage, captured by onlooker Feidin Santana, went viral and sparked many Black Lives Matter protests, as well as being introduced as a key piece of evidence in the high profile murder trial.
However, despite the horrific tragedy and unspeakable pain for the family, the Scott’s are choosing to go the way of Christ and to forgive the man who killed their dear Walter.
“I forgive Michael Slager. I forgive you,” Scott’s mother, Judy, told her son’s killer following the sentencing, according to AP. “I pray for you, that you would repent and let Jesus come in your life.”
“I’m not angry at you, Michael,” added Scott’s brother, Anthony. “I pray for you.”
“This is an historic day for civil rights, in particular for officer-involved shootings,” said Chris Stewart, one of the Scott family’s attorneys, at a press conference following the sentencing.
“I wish this never would have happened,” Slager said in his closing statement. “I’m sorry.”
“I wish I could go back and change events, but I can’t and I am very sorry for that.”
The previous State trial against Slager resulted in a mistrial back in December 2016 after a single juror refused to convict him. In this new Federal trial, prosecutors had called for life imprisonment for Slager, claiming he committed second-degree murder. While he did not receive such a harsh sentence as that, presiding Judge David Norton clearly agreed with the prosecution on the seriousness of the crime.
Indeed, though a pre-sentencing report put forward the assertion that Slager was guilty of manslaughter, there was no legal obligation for Judge Norton to enforce this conviction. In the end, he deemed that Slager’s crime amounted to murder in the second degree, and sentenced him accordingly.
“No matter what sentence I give, neither the Scott family nor Slager family is going to like it or think it’s right,” the judge said in a Charleston courtroom, according to ABC News.
In a statement following the conviction, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was quick to condemn officers who disobey the law and fail to honorably carry out their duty to protect the public.
“Officers who violate anyone’s rights also violate their oaths of honour,” he said. “And they tarnish the names of the vast majority of officers, who do incredible work.”