The police shooting of an unarmed black man in North Charleston, S.C., would probably go down as another justified fatal encounter by U.S. law enforcement had a bystander failed to capture the incident on video. Now that incident has brought to light a city that historically took the side of its police officers in similar cases.
According to Ginger Adams Otis of New York Daily News, South Carolina police officers have shot at 209 suspects in the past five years. However, none of them were accused of any wrongdoing until now, when 33-year-old police officer Michael Slager shot 50-year old Walter Scott five times in the back, killing him.
"Video that surfaced later - captured on the cellphone of a hidden witness - showed Slager methodically shooting the fleeing Scott in the back," Otis wrote.
Otis reported that North Charleston's police department had 340 officers. The Justice Department claimed that roughly 80 percent of those officers were white.
"The city itself is far more balanced - with whites comprising 41 percent of the population and blacks 47 percent," Otis wrote.
Otis reported that back in 2014, prosecutors brought "excessive force charges" against three white officers involved in the shooting of black drivers. However, "only one case went to trial, and it ended with a hung jury."
According to Wesley Lowery and Mark Berman of the Washington Post, authorities in North Charleston have promised to outfit the city's entire police department with body cameras on Wednesday. They hoped that such action would reassure the public and prevent frenzied protests playing out on the street as what happened last summer in Ferguson, Mo.
"The community is very angry about it, so it is important to calm the community before things get out of hand," James Johnson, president of the local chapter of the civil rights group National Action Network, said. "We don't want another Ferguson here."
Lowery and Berman reported that city officials in North Charleston moved quickly to fire the officer involved in Saturday's shooting and charge him with murder. Mayor R. Keith Summey argued at a press conference on Wednesday that his city would not become the next Ferguson "because we did what is right."
"We turned the investigation over to an independent agency," Summey said. "We gave them everything that we have.
David A. Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, told the Washington Post that hard lessons may have been learned by law enforcement in this case to avoid another volatile situation.
"If you have compelling evidence and, by the way, the public has all seen it, maybe the lesson of earlier cases is let's move," Harris said. "No sense in waiting around for people to simply get angry."
According to the Washington Post, Scott's mother, Judy, indicated to the press that she was "broken" watching her son run on the video.
"We're talking about cameras on the policemen," she said. "It's a shame that you have to do that, because the policemen are supposed to protect us - we're supposed to be able to trust them."
Despite what happened to her son, Judy insisted to the Washington Post that there are still good police officers and that she still had faith in the justice system.
"There are faithful and truthful people, and God has a way to make them do the right thing," she said.