One year after Walter Scott shooting, groups want memorial park

One year after Walter Scott shooting, groups want memorial park
Walter Scott. (Source: Facebook)
Scott's family placed flowers on his grave on the first anniversary of his death. (Source: Live 5)
Scott's family placed flowers on his grave on the first anniversary of his death. (Source: Live 5)

NORTH CHARLESTON (WCSC) - Lowcountry Civil Rights groups called for North Charleston residents to write letters to their mayor demanding a memorial park be built to honor Walter Scott.

That message came from leaders of the National Action Network and the NAACP Monday afternoon, the first anniversary of the death of motorist Walter Scott.

Scott, 50, was fatally shot on April 4, 2015 by then-North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager after a traffic stop for a malfunctioning brake light.

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The owner of the property where Scott died asked the groups and media covering a scheduled press conference to leave the property minutes before the press conference was to begin.

Elder James Johnson, president of the National Action Network, said the group wanted to lay flowers inside the fence where Scott fell after being shot five times, but said the owner of the property did not want them to do that. Speaking just outside the fence, Johnson urged people to write a letter to North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey and demand that the city purchase the land to create a Walter Scott Memorial Park.

"We want this to be a memorial park where people can come, every year for a Walter Scott anniversary, and wouldn't be kicked out by the owners," Johnson said.

Johnson said the owners of the property said they want to sell the property for $1 million.

Family members and friends of Walter Scott marked the first anniversary of the shooting that claimed his life by placing flowers at his grave at Live Oak Memorial Cemetery and praying together.

Scott's mother, Judy Scott, said she can't get him out of her mind.

"If someone told me I would have to stand here at Live Oak Cemetery, my son is in the grave, a mother is not supposed to bury her son," she said.

The Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III, the vice president for Religious Affairs and External Relations for NAN, spoke about the emotional remembrance at the gravesite earlier in the afternoon and a moment involving Scott's mother.

"When she cried out, Miss Judy, it may give us context about what this is about," Rivers said. "Walter Scott was a real human being. He was loved. And he was killed without cause. And as his attorney said, if it weren't for the video from that courageous citizen, we wouldn't be here today. Walter Scott would just have been another dead black man killed by a police officer who lied and claimed he was under threat, was fighting over the weapon, and Walter lost his life. But thank God for the video."

Scott's parents and one of his sons placed roses at his grave then prayed together. They also released balloons in the color of the Dallas Cowboys since Scott was a Dallas fan.

Family members said they are now waiting for justice as they await the former police officer accused of killing him.

Traffic stop led to fatal shooting

Police initially said Scott attempted to flee the traffic stop, resulting in a foot pursuit. They said Slager then deployed his Taser weapon to detain the driver but was unsuccessful. Police said an altercation then began between Slager and Scott resulting in a fight for the officer's Taser. During the fight, Scott allegedly gained control of the Taser to use it against the officer who then fired his service weapon at the suspect.

NCPD spokesman Spencer Pryor said Slager, who had been employed with the department since December 2009, had been placed on administrative leave following the incident.

After pulling over Scott's car at Advance Auto Parts on Remount Road, Slager is seen walking up to Scott's car, asking him for his driver's license and registration, and telling him he was pulled over because a brake light is out.

Scott says that he is in the process of buying the car from a neighbor and does not have insurance for the vehicle. After receiving Scott's license, Slager proceeds back to his patrol car.

About 30 seconds later, Scott gets out of his car, and Slager can be heard saying,"Have a seat in the car!" Scott then sits back inside his vehicle.

Twenty seconds later, Scott is seen running from the vehicle. Slager then can be heard communicating with emergency dispatch officials of the pursuit.

Later in the video, Slager can be heard saying,"Taser! Taser! Taser!" and "Get on the ground!"

Slager was arrested shortly after a video of the incident was sent to Scott's family and the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division. The video appeared to show Scott running away from Slager, then Slager firing eight rounds at Scott.

North Charleston Mayor Kieth Summey called the video "very demonstrative" and said without the video, it would have been difficult to resolve the issue.

On June 10, 2015, Gov. Nikki Haley signed Senate Bill 47 into law in North Charleston surrounded by the family of Walter Scott, whose death was caught on a cell phone camera. That bill requires all law enforcement officers in South Carolina to wear body cameras. Despite first being introduced in December 2014, Bill S.47 was fast-tracked following Scott's shooting death.

In February of this year, court documents revealed DNA of both Scott and Slager were found on swabs of the Taser. The evidence has been analyzed by both an independent investigator and SLED.

Slager is out on bond, but is currently under house arrest. The former officer is waiting is set to go to trial later this year on Oct. 31.

In the meantime, Johnson said he wanted to send a strong message to Summey.

"We will not allow that aggressive policing that they were doing in the past to come back to North Charleston, alienating law-abiding citizens, giving people rackets that didn't have to have rackets. We will not allow that," Johnson said, criticizing . "This year, 2016, we will not let Mayor Summey and the City of North Charleston get away with anything anymore. We want revitalization for our community, we want programs in our community, and we will not settle for anything less than that."

Rivers called for a series of town hall meetings and community sessions, not just on building a better relationship but to work on other areas that need improvement.

"We hope now that we have more African Americans on city council, we can move from a plantation to a city," Rivers said.

Ed Bryant, of the North Charleston branch of the NAACP said they are looking for significant change in the manner police officers treat citizens.

"We've got to have reforms upfront to identify the kinds of things that stop people from shooting people in the back and thinking it's okay," he said.

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