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Officer who shot fleeing man ‘racist,’ minister says

Judy Scott is escorted in for the funeral of her son, Walter Scott, at W.O.R.D. Ministries Christian Center in Summerville, S.C., on Saturday. (Associated Press)
Judy Scott is escorted in for the funeral of her son, Walter Scott, at W.O.R.D. Ministries Christian Center in Summerville, S.C., on Saturday. (Associated Press)
Bruce Smith And Phillip Lucas Associated Press

SUMMERVILLE, S.C. – The death of a black man shot in the back while fleeing a white police officer was the act of a racist cop, a minister told hundreds who gathered Saturday for the funeral of Walter Scott.

“All of us have seen the video,” the Rev. George Hamilton, the minister at W.O.R.D. Ministries Christian Center, 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.

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. The shooting last weekend in North Charleston was captured on a dramatic cellphone camera video by a man who was walking past.

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 the church where Scott had worshipped.

Hamilton called Michael Slager – the officer involved in the shooting and who has been charged with murder and fired – a disgrace to the North Charleston Police Department.

“This particular cop was a racist. You don’t Tase a man and then shoot,” the minister said. But he added “we will not indict the entire law enforcement community for the act of one racist.”

Hamilton said the Scott family could take comfort in the fact that Slager was captured on the video, was charged and will face justice.

Scott was remembered as a gentle soul and a born-again Christian. “He was not perfect,” the minister said, adding that nobody is.

The two-hour service included spirituals and remembrances of the 50-year-old Scott.

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

Police initially said Scott was shot on April 4 during a tussle over Slager’s department-issued Taser. But the video taken by the bystander and released last Tuesday showed Slager firing eight times as Scott ran away.

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 taillight. 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.

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