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Former S.C. Police Officer Pleads Guilty In Killing Of Unarmed Black Man


A former police officer in South Carolina pled guilty today to violating the civil rights of Walter Scott. He was a black man who was killed two years ago in North Charleston after a traffic stop. Officer Michael Slager, who is white, pulled Scott over for a broken taillight. Scott was unarmed and running away when Slager shot at him eight times. A bystander recorded the shooting on a cell phone.

South Carolina Public Radio's Alexandra Olgin was at the federal courthouse in Charleston today and is with us now. Hi there.


MCEVERS: So tell us more about Officer Michael Slager's plea and what it was like in the courtroom today.

OLGIN: Michael Slager pled guilty to objectively using unreasonable deadly force when he tried to arrest Walter Scott. Now, that was very important to Walter Scott's family to hear that he voluntarily used this deadly force and that it was reasonable. Michael Slager is 35 years old. He was standing up in the courtroom in a gray suit and answered the judge pretty quietly to all the different terms of the plea.

Now, both Walter Scott's family and Michael Slager family were in the courtroom and pretty emotional, dabbing their eyes. And Michael Slager embraced his attorney after the plea agreement was over and was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

MCEVERS: What are the terms of his plea agreement?

OLGIN: As part of this plea agreement, the state has also agreed to drop a pending murder charge. That trial was scheduled to start in August, and that will no longer happen. They can't pursue future charges either. Now, his sentence is not happened yet. He will be sentenced at a later date. The judge has not yet scheduled that. But one of the most important things in this plea agreement to both the family and the government is that he admitted to voluntarily using this deadly force.

MCEVERS: Walter Scott's family's already been through long state and federal court proceedings. What was their reaction to today's plea?

OLGIN: They felt like justice was served. And Anthony Scott, who is Walter's brother, said just that. He said that today is a victory because, you know, we got the officer to admit it. And here he says more.


ANTHONY SCOTT: He was gunned down running away. And this gentleman continued to stick to the story - stick to that story. But today he told the truth. He said he did it. And that's our victory. And the healing starts today.

MCEVERS: I'm wondering if you could just, like, remind us. I mean there was already a trial on this case. Remind us of what happened there.

OLGIN: It was a long five-week trial. We heard from more than 30 witnesses and experts. And at the end, the jury could not come to a verdict. There was a mistrial. And the family felt like, you know, while the evidence was there, they couldn't get a conviction. And that was upsetting to them. And so to get this plea today was very important. They stressed that it just - it really started the healing process for them.

MCEVERS: Is this where the story ends?

OLGIN: There is still sentencing, so that is going to happen at a later date. But yes, there are - should be no more trials for Michael Slager. Now, it's worth remembering that just a couple months after this shooting in 2015, Dylann Roof shot nine - shot and killed nine black worshipers in Charleston. And this has been a very turbulent time for the city of Charleston and sometimes even the state of South Carolina. And one thing the family members mentioned is that they were glad that both these people were brought to justice and that this turbulent time is ending for the city.

MCEVERS: South Carolina Public Radio's Alexandra Olgin, thank you.

OLGIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.