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Activists Press South Carolina for Police Body Cameras After Shooting

  • Reuters

Terence Wright pays his respects at the scene where Walter Scott was killed by a North Charleston policeman, Saturday, after a traffic stop in North Charleston, South Carolina, April 9, 2015.

Terence Wright pays his respects at the scene where Walter Scott was killed by a North Charleston policeman, Saturday, after a traffic stop in North Charleston, South Carolina, April 9, 2015.

Civil rights leaders urged lawmakers on Thursday to require all police officers in South Carolina to wear body cameras after a bystander filmed the death of a black man who was shot in the back by a white police officer as he ran away.

Dot Scott, president of the Charleston chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said it was unlikely the officer would have been arrested on a murder charge had the shooting of 50-year-old Walter Scott on Saturday not been captured on video.

She asked the South Carolina legislature to "stop dragging its feet" on a pending measure that calls for all law enforcement officers to wear cameras on their uniforms, echoing calls by the White House and elected officials across the United States following a string of police shootings of unarmed black men in the past year.

"It will lessen the chance that any more black men will be used for target practice as Mr. Scott was," the NAACP official said.

Also on Thursday, a man who in September 2013 accused the same North Charleston policeman, Michael Slager, of abuse and whose case was dismissed in a brief internal police investigation, said he would now file a lawsuit.

"If they had really listened to me and investigated, then that man would probably have been alive because he wouldn't be an officer in the field," Mario Givens, who is black, said at a press conference with his lawyer.

Slager, 33, was arrested and dismissed from his job after he shot eight rounds at Walter Scott's back following a traffic stop for a broken brake light. Slager has said he fired his weapon because Scott took his stun gun and he feared for his life.

Slager has retained prominent Charleston lawyer Andy Savage to defend him, court records show. Savage's previous clients included convicted al-Qaida operative Ali al-Marri.

"As we focus in on the facts, we will probably have more to say, but it is far too early for us to be saying what we think," Savage said in a statement.

In the 2013 case, Givens accused Slager of slamming him on the ground, dragging him and using a stun gun on him "for no reason." Slager had gone to Givens' home in search of a burglary suspect, and a physical struggle ensued between the two men as the officer tried to detain Givens, according to police records.

Another officer at the scene said Slager was forced to use his stun gun to get Givens to comply with his orders.

Before joining the North Charleston Police Department in 2009, Slager attended high school in Medford, New Jersey, and worked as a waiter in Voorhees, New Jersey, his personnel file shows. He then served in the U.S. Coast Guard for six years.

The Coast Guard said he was stationed in Port Canaveral, Florida, with the junior rank of fireman at the time of his honorable discharge.

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