CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - A judge set bail at $500,000 on Monday for a white former police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of an unarmed black man who ran from a traffic stop in South Carolina last year.
Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager will be on house arrest if he is released from custody, said Justin Bamberg, one of two attorneys in the case who reached a wrongful death and civil rights settlement with North Charleston and its police department late last year.
Slager has been jailed since his April arrest in the death of Walter Scott, whose fatal shooting was caught on video by a bystander.
The shooting renewed national debate over police treatment of minorities and led to Slager’s firing from the North Charleston police force.
Judge Clifton Newman set Slager’s trial for Oct. 31.
“Of course, the family is not happy that former Officer Slager is getting bond, but they understand that any criminal defendant can ask for bail,” Bamberg said. “As far as him being out (of jail), it does hurt. It hurts a mother and father who have to go visit their child in a cemetery. Everybody is just looking forward to and preparing for the trial.”
In denying bail to Slager in September, Newman wrote in an order filed to the court record that releasing Slager on bail “would constitute an unreasonable danger to the community.”
Defense attorneys argued that Slager was not a flight risk and had been violently attacked by Scott, 50, in a confrontation after Scott fled a routine traffic stop and Slager chased him.
Prosecutors said Scott was trying to get away from Slager, not attack him, and accused the officer of tampering with evidence by retrieving his stun gun from where it had fallen and placing it near Scott’s body.
On Monday, Newman granted bail after noting that Slager’s trial would not begin until later this year, a delay caused by prosecutors preparing for the trial of Dylann Roof, accused of killing nine people in a church shooting in Charleston in June, the Post and Courier newspaper reported.
Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Leslie Adler and Peter Cooney