Coroner: Walter Scott died from gunshot wounds to the back
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WIS) - The Charleston County Coroner's Office announced Walter Scott died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds to the back, and ruled his death a homicide.
Coroner Rae Wooten said an autopsy was performed Sunday on the 50-year-old, one day after police say Scott was shot while running from a North Charleston police officer. The autopsy findings were discussed with the attorneys representing the Scott family, Wooten said.
Bond was denied Tuesday evening for North Charleston Patrolman First Class Michael Slager, who faces a murder charge in connection with Scott's death. Scott, who was unarmed, was shot and killed by Slager shortly after 9:30 a.m. April 4 following a traffic stop near 1945 Remount Road in North Charleston.
According to police, Slager was conducting a traffic stop of Scott's car for a malfunctioning brake light.
According to an incident report from North Charleston Police, Sgt. James Gann said Slager advised he was on a foot pursuit with the driver of the vehicle he stopped, and the chase was going down Craig Street toward the Singing Pines subdivision. Gann reported that he heard Slager give dispatch a direction of travel and a description of the black male wearing a blue hat and blue jeans. This man was later identified as Scott.
Gann said he then discontinued the traffic stop he was on to go assist Slager. While en route, Gann said Slager advised via dispatch that he deployed his Taser and requested backup units. However, Gann said it was "seconds later" that he heard Slager say "shots fired and the subject is down. He took my Taser," the incident report states. When arriving on scene, Gann said he assisted Officer Clarence Habersham with first aid on Scott while waiting for EMS to respond. Habersham's statement explained that he was applying pressure to the gunshot wounds on Scott and giving direction to EMS and fire personnel for the best route to take to get Scott quickly.
Another Officer Joel Banias said that at about 9:40 a.m. April 4, he was en route to assist Slager when he heard the officer ask for someone to secure his vehicle that was at the traffic stop location on Remount Road. Banias said when he went to secure Slager's vehicle, he spoke to the passenger in Scott's vehicle, ultimately detaining that individual and putting that person in the backseat of his patrol car.
Sgt. Ron Webb secured Slager's weapon in the trunk of his vehicle when he arrived at the scene and later also put Slager in his patrol car while he inspected the area. Webb reported that he marked the shell casings at the incident location and contacted Scott's brother, Anthony, and secured a cell phone at the request of the State Law Enforcement Division.
Reports say Scott attempted to flee the scene, and Slager shot him with his stun gun. However, according to reports, Scott did not stop and the two got into an altercation, where Slager said Scott tried to take his stun gun away from him.
But a video shot by an unidentified bystander tells a different story.
The graphic video shows Slager firing multiple rounds at Scott as he was running away from the him. Scott appears to be hit multiple times and falls to the ground.
"As a result of that video and bad decisions made by our officer, he will be charged with murder," North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said at a Tuesday news conference to announce the charges.
"It's been a tragic day," North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers said.
Summey called the video "very demonstrative," and said without the video, it would have been difficult to resolve the issue. Summey said the city is trying to meet with Scott's family and will reach out to them any way they can.
Scott's family, meanwhile, held a news conference Tuesday night, where they described Scott as a loving and outgoing person.
Scott's brother, Anthony, fought back tears as he spoke of his brother, saying he had two brothers, but now only has one. Anthony described his brother as the extrovert of the family.
"He was the most outgoing out of all of us. He knew everybody. He knew family I didn't know," Anthony said.
A recurring theme of the press conference was a simple question: What would have happened in this case if video of the shooting had not surfaced?
"If things happened when no one was watching, would we be here today, or would it have just been another victim?" family attorney Chris Stewart said. Stewart criticized official reports that Scott tried to take the officer's stun gun weapon. "But that wasn't what happened," he said. "And the truth came out."
News of the shooting also prompted immediate response from Gov. Nikki Haley's office, who called the incident "unacceptable."
"This is a sad time for everyone in South Carolina, and I urge everyone to work together to help our community heal," Haley's statement said.
Statements from four other officers who arrived on the scene said they assisted in establishing a perimeter of the scene, provided aid to Scott and created a crime scene log. All stayed on scene until they were cleared by SLED.
The U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI, and SLED are all investigating.
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