Officials in North Charleston, S.C., have reached a $6.5 million settlement with the family of Walter Scott, the unarmed black man whom a bystander video captured being shot in the back by a white police officer after fleeing a traffic stop on foot in April, according to the Scott family.
“It’s historic,” said Chris Stewart, an attorney for the Scott family. “It sets a good precedent for a city not tolerating this sort of behavior from police officers.”
Scott’s death was one of half a dozen cases of unarmed black men being killed by police officers in late 2014 and early 2015 that sparked protests in dozens of cities and prompted new discussions of police transparency and reform.
“This is a very difficult period for the Scott family. I know they are glad to have this part behind them so their healing process can continue,” North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said in a statement. “As a result of this tragedy, important issues have been discussed, not only in North Charleston, but around the country. Citizens have become engaged in this process and government officials are listening.”
He later added: “This settlement is a step in the right direction for the family, the city, the Lowcountry, and our state.”
The settlement comes after the City of New York agreed to pay $5.9 million to the family of Eric Garner, whose death after allegedly being put in a chokehold by an NYPD officer was captured on bystander video, and the City of Baltimore agreed to pay $6.4 million to the family of Freddie Gray, whose death in the back of a police transport van prompted murder charges for six officers.
North Charleston’s decision to pay Scott’s family rather than face a civil suit comes as Michael Slager, the officer who killed Scott, remains imprisoned while he awaits trial on murder charges.
If convicted, Slager faces 30 years to life in prison with no possibility of parole. Reached via email, Slager’s attorney Andy Savage refused to comment on the settlement.
So far this year, police officers have shot and killed more than 750 people, according to a Washington Post database tracking police shootings all year. There are just five cases this year that have resulted in charges for the officers involved, and in all but one of those cases video evidence was crucial to prosecutors’ decision to bring charges.
“This is a small victory,” said Anthony Scott, Walter Scott’s brother. “And as long as we win the war, and get a conviction for murder, we will be pleased and feel like we got justice.”