Officer who responded after shooting takes stand in Michael Slager trial

Michael Slager speaks to defense attorney Andy Savage in court on Monday. (Source: AP Pool/File)
Michael Slager speaks to defense attorney Andy Savage in court on Monday. (Source: AP Pool/File)
Rodney Scott, youngest brother of Walter Scott, spoke to reporters Thursday outside the courthouse. (Source: Live 5)
Rodney Scott, youngest brother of Walter Scott, spoke to reporters Thursday outside the courthouse. (Source: Live 5)
Judy Scott, mother of Walter Scott, became emotional while testifying Thursday. (Source: AP/Pool)
Judy Scott, mother of Walter Scott, became emotional while testifying Thursday. (Source: AP/Pool)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The trial of the former North Charleston police officer charged in the fatal shooting of a man who ran from a traffic stop adjourned for the weekend after testimony from the man who shot video of the incident and the first officer to respond after shots were fired.

Former police officer Michael Slager is charged in Walter Scott's death in April 2015.

Clarence Habersham, the former North Charleston Police officer who responded to the scene immediately after the shooting took the stand late Friday afternoon and testified about giving first aid to Scott. 

Habersham said police are not trained to fire a warning shot but to stop a threat. He says he found Scott handcuffed on the ground when he arrived at the scene. Habersham says he was the one that un-cuffed Scott and administered CPR and first aid.

Prosecutors also played radio transmissions of the officers communicating during the incident: "Shots fired, subject is down, he grabbed my Taser." Prosecutors argue that Slager dropped the Taser next to Scott's body.

Habersham also said he never saw Slager drop or pick up anything.

Defense attorney Andy Savage says there should have been six patrolmen on duty the day of the incident but there weren't.

MOBILE USERS: Click here for live blog of trial.

Before the court adjourned for lunch, the jury watched a cellphone video of the shooting and heard from the man who recorded the incident on April 4, 2015.

Feidin Santana recorded officer Michael Slager shooting the fleeing Walter Scott on April 4, 2015. Santana took the stand Friday morning, testifying he was about 60 yards away from Slager and Scott when a struggle took place and he started to record the incident on his cellphone.

Slager claims he shot Scott in self-defense after Scott grabbed his Taser during a struggle. Santana testified he never saw Scott coming towards Slager with a Taser.

"He got away and uh…he shoot the man running away, from him," Santana said.

The video shows Scott being shot at a total of eight times. The Charleston County coroner reported days after the shooting that Scott had been hit five times.

Santana said he was walking to work when he passed by the scene and decided to record what he was witnessing, in his words, "to prevent something that might happen."

Santana said the men wrestled on the ground, and he could hear an electric sound that he later learned came from Slager's stun gun.

In a motion filed earlier this week, Slager's attorneys requested the video not be shown to the jury, calling it "highly prejudicial, inflammatory, and factually deficient." Attorneys argued the video is of "poor quality" and "fails to clearly show the significant acts leading up to the fatal shooting, because it is out of focus for a substantial portion of the relevant events, and because it does not adequately reflect the positioning and distances between the actors."

The motion also requested that if the judge allowed the video to be shown, that it not be displayed in slow motion because "recent peer-reviewed social scientific studies have shown that slow motion videos are inherently prejudicial."

Judge Clifton Newman denied both of those requests.

Scott's friends, family testified Thursday

Scott's mother broke down in court, crying, "Hallelujah." She was helped by court bailiffs after she left the witness stand.

The jury also watched and listened to dash cam video that included what sounds like Slager shouting, "Taser."

Scott's son, Walter Scott II, testified that he had lived with his father in North Charleston and saw him the day of his death.

A neighbor, Arthur Heyward, told prosecutors he had owned the Mercedes Scott was driving when he was pulled over.

Scott's fiancee, Charlotte Jones, described Scott as a "loving and kind person."

The defense contends that Slager and Scott fought over the officer's Taser before Scott ran and was shot in the back, an encounter that a bystander recorded on a cellphone. Jones testified that she never knew Scott to have been in a fight. She says "he was not that kind of person."

She also testified that Scott never mentioned to her that he was worried about being behind in child support payments. Scott's relatives have said that he may have tried to run away because he was worried he would be jailed for missing payments.

Pierre Fulton, the man who was riding in the front passenger seat with Scott at the time of the traffic stop, said he has no idea why Scott tried to run away after Slager pulled him over. Fulton testified that Scott gave the officer his license and stepped out of the car. He said Scott was told to get back in again, and Scott did, but Fulton said "the next thing you know he was out the door."

Fulton testified that a short time later he heard gunshots. Slager fired eight times as Scott was running away. Asked by prosecutor Scarlett Wilson why Scott fled, Fulton replied: "That's a question I would like to ask him, Unfortunately, I can't. He was murdered."

Fulton repeated the statement at least three times while on the stand. The last time came when he was under cross-examination by defense attorney Andy Savage.

"Sir, I have nothing against officers who do their job, just do your job," Fulton said. "I have a job to do when I'm working, I do my job. You do your job, it's all good. You might protect my mother one day, you might protect my little sister, you might protect somebody that I know. But somebody's running from you, you don't shoot them in the back."

At one point, Wilson reported to the judge one of the jurors works with a second cousin of Scott, but that the juror may not be aware of it. Judge Clifton Newman said he would address the issue at a later time.

Scott's family 'not worried' about jury

Scott's family issued a brief statement to the media following the end of the day's testimony Thursday.

Rodney Scott, Walter Scott's youngest brother said that from the beginning of the case, the family asked for justice to do its job.

"And from this point, we're going to sit back and pray that justice will do their job, and in the end, hopefully, we will get justice," Scott said.

Family attorney Chris Stewart denied rumors the family was concerned about the racial makeup of the jury. The jury selected on Wednesday morning consisted of 11 white jurors and one black juror.

"The family isn't [worried] at all. We aren't at all," he said. "Because the only thing you need in this case is everything that those jurors have: two eyes and a brain. It doesn't matter what color they are because they have eyes that can see that videotape. And they have brains that are processing right now. That jury is intense, watching everything. And they know that there is no explanation at all for shooting at a man eight times while running away."

Family attorney and State Rep. Justin Bamberg commended the community on the way it has supported the family and handled the situation.

"We know that at the end of the day justice will prevail and the jurors will make their decision," he said. "But we can look around town right here and see that things are still peaceful and that is what we would like to see continue. And at the end of the day when the verdict comes in, whatever it may be, we ask that that peace continue, because that is who we are, that is who you are as South Carolina citizens, and that is who the Scott family is."

Jurors hear opening statements Thursday

Prosecutors and defense attorneys gave opening statements Thursday morning before a panel of 11 white jurors and one black juror.

During opening statements, Wilson said Slager may have been provoked by Scott if Scott wrestled his Taser away, but that Slager wasn't justified in shooting Scott eight times as he ran from the officer. Wilson told the jury what Slager did was "flat out wrong," and that he lied because he didn't know he was being videotaped on a cell phone.

"His first instinct after those shots were fired and he cuffs a dead Walter Scott is to to stage the scene," Wilson said.

But defense attorneys say Slager was forced into action when Scott ran from him during a traffic stop. Savage told the jury in opening statements on Thursday that Slager was alone on patrol in the "No. 1 crime-ridden area" in North Charleston when he stopped Scott for a non-functioning tail light. He says that would not have been a big deal, but Scott escalated things by trying to run away.

Savage told the jury evidence will show Scott and Slager fought over Slager's Taser and Scott grabbed it, forcing the former cop to defend himself.

"The solicitor with all the king's horses and all the king's men would speculate that the DNA got on the Taser before Slager put the Taser on Mr. Scott," Savage said.

Savage said authorities presume Scott ran because he hadn't paid child support, but that they don't know that for sure.

Slager faces 30 years to life if convicted of murder in the April 2015 shooting death of 50-year-old Scott as Scott fled a traffic stop in North Charleston.

Copyright 2016 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.