NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Civil rights groups called Friday for a federal investigation into all Charleston County officer-involved shootings resulting in death going back for the past 21 years.
The North Charleston NAACP, the Coalition (People United to Take Back Our Community) and the Tri-County National Action Network held a joint press conference at North Charleston City Hall.
The groups want the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct an investigation into all fatal officer-involved shootings in North Charleston and Charleston County dating back to 1994.
"No police officer in Charleston County has ever been convicted of killing a black man," Elder James Johnson, president of the Tri-County National Action Network, said. He said those incidents were deemed as being justified by the solicitor's office and the State Law Enforcement Division.
"We as a community do not have faith in the solicitor's office, the North Charleston Police Department or SLED. None," Johnson said.
Speakers at the press conference wore black t-shirts with white lettering that read, "Do you believe us now?" a reference to the appearance of a video of the officer-involved shooting of Walter Scott.
"It is commonly believed in the African-American community, those most affected by officer-involved shootings, that law enforcement agencies have deliberately filed false police reports, tampered with evidence, turned a blind eye to the facts of their investigations and launched covered-up campaigns in order to avoid prosecution for their acts of violence perpetrated against black people in North Charleston and Charleston County," Pastor Thomas Dixon said, reading from a joint statement.
Dixon said this alleged practice is commonly referred to as the "Blue Wall of Silence."
The groups say 209 officer-involved shootings have been reported in South Carolina "in recent history," but that only "a very small number" resulted in the officer being charged.
"The community believes that, due to police intervention in the investigation process, these deaths resulting from officer-involved shootings have been intentionally manipulated in order to keep the law enforcement officers involved from ever being prosecuted," Dixon said.
Dixon called an in-depth investigation, along with transparency, "a major brick in the bridge-building process between law enforcement and the community in the establishment of trust so we can move forward together in peace."