NCPD: Traffic stop over brake light led to fatal officer-involved shooting
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A traffic stop for a defective brake light led to a fatal officer-involved shooting in North Charleston on Saturday, according to officials with the North Charleston Police Department.
In newly released police reports, NCPD officials say the shooting which took the life of 50-year-old Walter Scott started when a North Charleston police officer, who has been identified as 33-year-old Patrolman First Class Michael Slager, conducted a traffic stop on Scott's car for a brake light that was out and not working.
NCPD spokesman Spencer Pryor said on Monday that Slager, who has been employed with the department since December 2009, has been placed on administrative leave following the incident.
Pryor said Scott was fatally shot following a struggle for the officer's Taser weapon.
"This is part of the job that no one likes and wishes would never happen," North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers said on Saturday. "This type of situation is unfortunate and difficult for everyone. We are confident that SLED will conduct a complete and thorough investigation in to the incident and provide their findings to all concerned."
SLED is investigating the incident which unfolded at about 9:30 a.m. when Slager conducted a traffic stop at Craig Street and Remount Road, according to Pryor.
An NCPD sergeant who was conducting a traffic stop in the area of Dorchester Road and Scarsdale Avenue reported hearing Slager's transmission that he was out on a traffic stop, and a few minutes later heard Slager say he was in a foot pursuit with the driver who was reportedly running down Craig Street toward the Singing Pines subdivision.
The sergeant said he then heard Slager advise dispatch officials the direction of travel and a description of the suspect as a "black male wearing a blue hat and blue jeans."
The sergeant reported that he then discontinued his traffic stop and proceeded to Slager's location. At this point, another officer reported that Slager had requested another unit to "step up his response" to his location.
Slager deployed his Taser weapon to detain the driver but was unsuccessful, Pryor said.
Police say an altercation then began between Slager and Scott resulting in a fight for the officer's Taser.
During the fight, Scott gained control of the Taser to use it against the officer who then fired his service weapon at the suspect, Pryor said.
While en route, the sergeant reported that he heard Slager say that he deployed his Taser and was requesting for back up units, and seconds later reported "shots fired and the subject is down, he took my taser."
The sergeant said he and another officer performed CPR on Scott until EMS units arrived; the other officer also reported that he was also directing EMS and fire officials the best route to take to get to the victim faster.
A police report states when EMS and first responders arrived, EMS took over providing care to Scott who was pronounced dead a short time later.
An NCPD officer reported that he made contact with Slager and secured his duty weapon. The officer said he put Slager in his patrol car and asked him for the approximate area of the incident.
The officer said he then located and marked the shell casings from the incident. The officer reported that he made contact with Scott's brother and secured his cell phone at the request of SLED.
According to police, departmental notifications were made as well as notifications to the Charleston County Coroner's Office.
NCPD officials say the duty chief and detectives arrived and took command of the incident location, and a perimeter was established around both the driver's vehicle and the incident location.
Police say SLED was notified and responded to the location to assume control of the investigation.
Workers at Auto Zone across the street say they heard the gunshots.
"The cop pulled someone over, all of sudden the doors swung open," Joseph Sanchez said.
"With in a few minutes EMS was already here," Jonah Perez said.
Perez and Sanchez were just hundreds of feet from the shooting.
"It's pretty scary to hear somebody got shot," Sanchez said.
Crime scene tape blocked off Craig Road and people surrounded the busy street asking questions. A busy North Charleston street moved a little slower Saturday as people wondered what caused it all.
"Hopefully it was done for the right reasons, you know?" Sanchez said.
"We're asking everybody to please, before they react on this, to please let the investigation be completed," said Elder James Johnson with the National Action Network on Sunday.
Johnson was urging people to wait until the investigation into the shooting is over to make any judgments.
Johnson said the tragedy should not be made any worse.
"I don't want this to become another Ferguson," said Elder Johnson. "I don't want anymore lives to be taken or anyone else to be in jail."
Documents state two complaints were filed against Slager including an incident for using a taser on a suspect in 2013. Slager was cleared in that incident.
Slager was also given a warning for not filling out a police report earlier this year for a woman who claimed she was harassed by a neighbor.
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