Rev. Franklin Graham of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has responded to a video showing 50-year-old father of four Walter Scott being fatally shot in the back multiple times by South Carolina police officer Michael Slager, stating that the U.S. must come together and address issues of racial injustice "with God's help."
"Saturday there was another tragic shooting of an African American by a police officer who has now been charged with murder. This death was unnecessary and avoidable. Unfortunately many in our society are faced with racial injustice, hatred, and bigotry from those who are in authority, and this needs to be addressed," the evangelist wrote in a Facebook post earlier this week. "As a father and a grandfather, this is the advice I have given my own children. If you find yourself in an altercation with police, show respect and obey their instructions. Once a bullet leaves the barrel of a gun, there is no calling it back. I am praying for the family of Walter Scott and this community, and I hope you will join me. We need to come together as a nation and with God's help, address these critical issues for the sake of our future."
Scott, a 50-year-old father of four and Coast Guard veteran, was shot in the back at least six times as he ran away from Slager during a routine traffic stop. Video footage of the incident, which was captured via cell phone, contradicts the police officer's claims that he feared for his life as it shows Scott attempting to flee before Slager shoots him several times, forcing Scott to stumble to the ground head first.
Video footage further shows Scott laying on the ground as Slager handcuffs him before jogging back a few steps to collect something from the ground, which he then drops next to Scott's lifeless body.
According to the AFP, Slager, who joined the department in 2009, reportedly stopped Scott over a broken brake light when the incident occurred. Scott had a warrant out for his arrest from family court at the time of the shooting, which experts believe may have accounted for his attempt to flee. Slager, who has since been charged with murder, could face up to 30 years in prison, or the death penalty.
Reverend Graham's perspective on the tragic incident resonated with readers, who "liked" his post nearly 40,000 times and shared it another 6,558 times.
"I'm praying for our country! This is another horrible deed that is tearing at the fabric of America. I'm so sorry this happened, and I will be praying for both families involved, plus all of America. This is a great nation and most people are horrified by this killing," wrote Theresa Coleman.
"I'm impressed that the family is asking for prayer not violence as well. Retaliation in the form of more violence doesn't excuse people to go on making more violence," added Darlene Hoffman.
The death of Walter Scott comes in the wake of ongoing racial tension around the nation in relation to a growing number of cases involving police brutality towards black males. Last year, the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the chokehold death of Staten Island resident Eric Garner triggered nationwide protests.
On Wednesday morning, a rally was held in North Charleston, South Carolina to protest police brutality and call for justice.
"I think that this is just another example of a problem that we have in our community, and we need to take a hard look at the way police officers are hired and advanced and deployed and disciplined, and also the systems of accountability in general," Brandon Fish, a member of activist group Black Lives Matter-Charleston, told The Charleston City Paper on Wednesday.