A white former police officer who is charged with fatally shooting an unarmed black man in North Charleston, S.C., has been released from jail and put on house arrest until his trial.
The judge in the case granted Michael Slager bail Monday night after he said he was disturbed by a delay in the trial, according to the Post and Courier. Slager has been charged with murder in the death of Walter Scott, who was shot in the back in April after fleeing from a traffic stop — a deadly encounter that was captured on camera.
An attorney for Scott’s family members said they were “not happy” about Slager’s release.
“This is just another step in the criminal justice process, and the family believes at the end of the day that justice will prevail,” attorney Justin Bamberg told the Associated Press.
One weekend in early April, Slager pulled Scott over during a routine traffic stop in North Charleston, and Scott took off on foot. Scott had a family court warrant out for his arrest, and he owed back child support, his family’s lawyer, Chris Stewart, said at the time.
The video showed Scott and Slager making physical contact. Then Scott turned and started to run. Slager drew his weapon and fired eight shots toward Scott’s back — and Scott slumped and fell to the ground.
Slager approached him, told him to put his hands behind his back and handcuffed him. Slager later grabbed something from the ground and dropped it near Scott’s body.
A bystander recorded the shooting on a cellphone, and Slager, 34, was fired from the police force and charged with murder.
Until this week, he was being held in solitary confinement at the Charleston County Detention Center, according to the Associated Press. Circuit Judge Clifton Newman had denied Slager’s bond request in September, saying his release would pose an “unreasonable danger to the community.”
At a hearing Monday, Slager’s attorney, Andy Savage, said the former officer has health problems — including celiac disease — and faced 11 more months behind bars before his trial, according to the AP.
Prosecutor Scarlett Wilson argued that circumstances have not changed since September, when Slager was deemed a flight risk, and that releasing someone who feels unjustly accused is dangerous, according to the Post and Courier.
“The defendant’s circumstances are very bleak,” she said, according to the newspaper. “In desperate times, people take very desperate actions. That is our concern.
“It’s been clear from the start that he claims the role of the victim.”
Scott’s father, also named Walter Scott, told the judge that he has to go to a cemetery to visit his son. If released, Scott said, Slager could see his own family at home.
“If we let him out, he’s going to go home to see his wife and children,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “All I can look at is a pot of flowers.”
Newman, the judge, said he was concerned that Slager’s trial had been delayed for so long, in part because Wilson is also prosecuting Dylann Roof, a white man charged with murder in a shooting spree that killed nine black parishioners at a Charleston church. The trial is set to begin in July and the state Supreme Court has ordered Wilson not to take on any other cases before then, according to the Associated Press.
Slager posted $500,000 bail Monday night.
If convicted, he will face 30 years to life in prison.