Former S.C. officer expected to plead guilty in Walter Scott shooting

Former North Charleston, S.C., police officer Michael Slager is expected to plead guilty Tuesday prior to the start of his trial for the shooting death of Walter Scott. Photo courtesy the North Charleston Police Department

May 2 (UPI) — A former South Carolina police officer captured on video shooting a man to death is expected to plead guilty to federal civil rights charges, sources close to the investigation said Tuesday.

Michael Slager is expected to enter a guilty plea in federal district court in the death of Walter Scott, who was shot and killed after a traffic stop in 2015. Four people associated with the case confirmed that an agreement to plead guilty is in place, the Charleston Post and Courier reported Tuesday.

Slager is charged with violating rights under cover of law, lying to investigators and using a firearm in a violent crime. It is uncertain to what charges he will plead, and since sentencing is rarely handed down on the same day as a plea, it is unknown what, if any, prison time he faces. The most serious of the offenses, violation of rights as a police officer, could bring him life imprisonment, or no prison time at all; probation agents will take weeks to prepare a presentencing report.

A trial, scheduled to begin May 15, will be canceled if Slager pleads guilty Tuesday.

Slager, who is white, has maintained that he shot Scott in self-defense after Scott took Slager’s stun gun. Slager stopped Scott’s car on a broken taillight violation on April 4, 2015; Scott fled the scene on foot before the two grappled over the stun gun, Slager said. The federal indictment says Slager used excessive force in subduing Scott; a graphic video of the incident, taken by eyewitness Feidin Santana, shows Scott running away as Slager began shooting with his handgun. Five of eight bullets fired struck Scott.

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A jury considered the the video evidence in 2016 and could not agree if Slager committed murder, manslaughter or no crime. His pending trial was to consider if Scott’s civil rights were violated.

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