Disgraced former police officer Michael Slager was sentenced on Thursday to 20 years in prison for the April 2015 shooting of an unarmed black motorist that was caught on video and prompted national outrage.
U.S. District Judge David Norton found him guilty of second-degree murder for the killing of Walter Scott, who was seen in a dramatic video running away from Slager as the North Charleston officer fired the fatal shots.
Slager has been in jail since pleading guilty in May to violating Scott’s civil rights. The judge also said Slager, 36, obstructed justice when he made statements to state police after the shooting.
This week, federal prosecutors and Slager’s lawyers called witnesses to testify about technical aspects of the case. That included the use of Slager’s stun gun, which the former officer said Scott grabbed and turned on him, causing Slager, who is white, to fear for his life and shoot in self-defense, firing five times into his back as he ran away.
After Norton ruled Thursday, attorneys began calling friends and relatives of both men to tell the judge the effect Scott’s death and the officer’s arrest have had on their lives.
On Wednesday, Scott’s youngest son spoke to the court so he could return to his high school classes. Clutching a photograph of his father, Miles Scott said he has had trouble sleeping ever since his father’s death. He said he misses watching football games with his dad and can’t fathom not being able to watch with him the game they both loved.
“I miss my father every day,” Miles Scott said through tears. “I would like you to sentence the defendant to the strongest sentence the laws allows because he murdered my one and only father.”
Slager pulled Scott over for a broken brake light in April 2015, and Scott, 50, ran during the stop. After deploying his stun gun, Slager fired eight bullets at Scott as he ran away, hitting him five times in the back.
Slager faced murder charges in state court, but a jury in that case deadlocked last year and the state charges were dropped as part of his federal plea deal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.