CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - A white South Carolina patrolman charged with murder for shooting a black man in the back as he fled after a traffic stop will not face the death penalty if convicted, a prosecutor said on Monday.
None of the circumstances that allow lethal punishment apply in the April 4 shooting of 50-year-old Walter Scott by North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, said Scarlett Wilson, Charleston County’s chief prosecutor.
“Based on the facts revealed thus far, it does not appear South Carolina’s death penalty provision applies in this case because there are no statutory ‘aggravating circumstances’ present,” Wilson said in a statement.
Such factors include murders committed during a kidnapping, robbery, drug trafficking, or with poison or physical torture.
Scott’s death reignited a public outcry over police treatment of black Americans that flared last year after the killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, and elsewhere.
North Charleston fired Slager last week after he was charged with murder in Scott’s death. A cellphone video emerged showing him shooting at Scott’s back eight times as he ran away.
Slager was being held in Charleston County jail. He could face 30 years to life in prison if convicted.
In police dashboard camera video released Monday evening, Slager can be heard telling a fellow officer after the shooting he didn’t understand why Scott ran away.
“I don’t understand why he took off like that,” Slager said. “I don’t understand why he’d run.”
In a different case, Slager is accused of using excessive force during an August 2014 traffic stop in North Charleston in a lawsuit filed April 10 by Julius Wilson. Wilson was stopped for driving with a broken taillight, the same offense Scott was pulled over for the day he died.
Wilson says Slager and two other officers pulled him from his vehicle, restrained him face-down on the pavement and Slager fired a stun gun into his back.
A spokesman for the North Charleston police department declined to comment.
Another South Carolina man, Mario Givens, planned to file a lawsuit against Slager after his own complaint of abuse nearly two years ago was dropped after a brief police probe.
Reporting by Harriet McLeod in Charleston, S.C.; Additional reporting and writing by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle and David Adams in Miami.; Editing by Peter Cooney and Doina Chiacu