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Al Sharpton: Prosecute Black Charleston Officer in Walter Scott Case

By    |   Sunday, 12 Apr 2015 10:39 AM

The Rev. Al Sharpton is expected to appear Sunday in North Charleston and attend a vigil for Walter Scott, the black driver who was fatally shot by a white police officer after he fled a traffic stop.

Sharpton is expected to press the South Carolina authorities to prosecute a black police officer for his conduct in the aftermath of the April 4 shooting death of Walter L. Scott, The New York Times reported.

"Given what I’ve seen, he certainly should be held accountable," Mr. Sharpton told the Times Saturday night. "What charge, I don’t know. But certainly he should not walk away without facing some accountability in the criminal justice system."

Sharpton will preach at Charity Missionary Baptist Church before attending a vigil near the scene of the shooting.

Officer Clarence Habersham did not fire any rounds at Scott and arrived on the scene in North Charleston shortly after the confrontation between Scott and Officer Michael T. Slager, the Times pointed out. Slager was charged with murder after a video that showed him shooting Mr. Scott as he fled on foot became public.

Scott was shot April 4 and former officer Slager initially said he fired after a tussle over his department-issued Taser. Dramatic witness video showed that Slager fired eight times as Scott ran away. Slager was fired and has been charged with murder.

In a two-sentence report filed after the shooting, Habersham wrote that he had "attempted to render aid to the victim by applying pressure to the gunshot wounds" and by helping to coordinate the emergency response, the Times reported.

But many have questioned that account. The video evidence indicates that Officer Habersham did little to aid Scott. Habersham also may have omitted significant information from his report, including whether Slager dropped an item, possibly his Taser stun gun, near Scott after the shooting.

Scott was a father of four and Coast Guard veteran whose death sparked outrage as another instance of a white law officer fatally shooting an unarmed black man under questionable circumstances.

Scott was driving a 1991 Mercedes that he bought from a neighbor and was headed to an auto parts store when he was stopped, his brother Rodney Scott said.

Police said he had a broken tail light. Video from the police car's dashboard camera shows Slager asking Scott for his license and registration, then heading back to his cruiser before Scott gets out of the car and runs.

Scott's relatives have said they suspect he fled Slager out of fear of being jailed again over missed child support payments.

At the time he was stopped, Scott, who worked as a warehouse forklift operator, owed more than $18,000 in child support and court fees, according to Charleston County records.

About 450 people including U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., the two black members of South Carolina's congressional delegation, gathered in the sanctuary of W.O.R.D. Ministries Christian Center — the church where Scott had worshipped — for his funeral on Saturday.

Clyburn said he hoped some good could come from the tragedy.

"I think this is a catalyst to get people to face up to the fact that we've got problems in this country," he said. "I think this exposed something that is already there." Clyburn also said there need to be minimum standards, perhaps national standards, for evaluating law officers.

"All of us have seen the video," the Rev. George Hamilton, the minister at W.O.R.D. Ministries, told an overflow congregation. "There is no doubt in my mind and I feel that Walter's death was motivated by racial prejudice."

Authorities have not said whether race was a factor in the shooting.

"We will not indict the entire law enforcement community for the act of one racist," the minister said.

After the funeral, Scott family attorney Chris Stewart said the pain behind this shooting would have hurt a family of any background.

"The epidemic of powerless people being taken advantage of no matter what color, no matter what gender, no matter what belief system you have, needs to stop," he said.

"We're not going to let this case boil down to just racial issues because it's bigger than that," Stewart said. "It's a human issue."

About 200 additional people waited outside during Scott's funeral beneath the portico of the church or under umbrellas in the rain because the sanctuary had reached capacity.

Those who waited outside were able to enter at the end of the service and file by Scott's open casket — covered in an American flag and surrounded with sprays of flowers.

Those who knew Scott remembered him as lighthearted and gentle. They describe a laid-back, fun-loving man who took his girlfriend dancing on weekends.

Scott had been married twice, and proposed to his girlfriend Charlotte Jones about a week before he was killed.


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The Rev. Al Sharpton is expected to appear Sunday in North Charleston and attend a vigil for Walter Scott, the black driver who was fatally shot by a white police officer after he fled a traffic stop.Sharpton is expected to press the South Carolina authorities to prosecute...
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