NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The attorney who brought a $40 million lawsuit following the fatal shooting of a black man by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri, last year wants a special prosecutor to investigate a similar case in South Carolina.
Malik Shabazz, the president of Black Lawyers for Justice, says his group also will conduct its own investigation into the slaying of 50-year-old Walter Scott by a white officer April 4.
He also plans a nationwide town hall meeting next weekend to explore the issue of race and police practices.
Shabazz attended a rally at North Charleston City Hall attended by about 75 people on Monday, where he said it isn’t enough that officer Michael Slager has been charged with murder.
“A charge to us doesn’t mean anything. We want to see that the charges stick,” he said.
The shooting was captured on a cellphone video recorded by an eyewitness who was walking nearby. The footage shows Slager firing eight times as Scott is running away, then shows Scott falling to the ground. The video has been seen by millions and resulted in the charge against Slager.
“We have reached the point and the tragic point that if you don’t have video showing what happened,” a shooting “is justifiable,” Shabazz said. “We’re not going to be hunted down like deer.”
He added that “when we see dead bodies on the ground, we are at war,” and said he was encouraging protesters to “stir the pot” to bring change.
But he said he was not advocating violence. “Of course not, I’m an attorney,” he said.
Black Lawyers for Justice, founded by Shabazz, brought a lawsuit alleging Ferguson, Missouri, and St. Louis County used excessive force and falsely arrested bystanders to quell unrest after the fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old man by a white officer there last year.
Shabazz said whether a lawsuit is brought in South Carolina depends on what his investigation turns up.
Late Monday, the passenger who was in Scott’s car during the traffic stop before he fled released a statement.
“I’ll never know why he ran, but I know he didn’t deserve to die,” Pierre D. Fulton said in the brief remarks, released by lawyer Mark A. Peper. Fulton calls Scott a dear friend who made him a better man and showed him the value of hard work. Fulton also asks for privacy moving forward. His lawyer says it will be his only statement until any court proceedings.
The response to the North Charleston shooting has been subdued, generally attributed to authorities immediately charging Slager with murder after the cellphone video surfaced.
The State Law Enforcement Division released almost 13 hours of video from the cruisers of the five officers who responded to the scene of the shooting.
On one, Slager can be heard wondering aloud to an officer identified as his supervisor why Scott ran away.
Scott was behind $18,000 in his child support payments and family members have said he may have run because he was worried about going back to jail. A warrant had been issued for his arrest.
On the video, Slager is heard answering a call on his cellphone.
“Everything’s OK, OK?” he tells the caller. “I just shot somebody.”
He also tells the caller: “He grabbed my Taser, yeah. He was running from me.” Slager initially said after the shooting that Scott had tried to take his Taser. The man with the cellphone said he started recording after noticing a scuffle.
The supervisor tells Slager that South Carolina Law Enforcement Division agents will be asking him about the shooting and “when you get home it would probably be a good idea to kind of jot down your thoughts on what happened — the adrenalin is just pumping.”
“It’s pumping,” Slager responds, and they both laugh.
Then there is a pause for a few seconds, and Slager speaks again, softly:
“I don’t understand why he took off like that.”
Another short pause.
“I don’t understand why he’d run.”
Associated Press writers Jack Jones and Jeffery Collins in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.
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