Videotape shows North Charleston, SC, Patrolman Michael Thomas Slager firing eight shots at the back of a running and apparently unarmed Walter Lamer Scott, who, felled, dies. This the result of a traffic stop for a faulty brake light.
It is unclear why Mr. Scott ran. Officer Slager has said that he felt threatened by Mr. Scott who had grabbed and wrestled for the policeman’s stun gun.
What is clear is that this is another case (following Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice; see my blog post, March 23, black lives matter?) of a shooting and killing of a black civilian by a white person acting as an agent of law enforcement.
What is different is the existence of a videotape, the viewing of which has led to the arrest of Officer Slager, his being charged for murder and being denied bond, the public condemnations of his actions by North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, and United States Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, and the statement of the Department of Justice that the Federal Bureau of Investigation will join the enquiry.
Still, I wonder. What might have happened or not if the videotape did not exist. Or if the as yet unidentified person who recorded the footage had chosen not to come forward and provide a visual recount of what happened.
For now, I will refuse to follow the call of alarm of my inner wonderment about (and, at times, disillusionment with) institutional authority, particularly in regard to race matters. I shall trust that the facts of the case will be revealed in the ensuing, thorough investigation.
Still, at the beginning, through the course, and at the denouement of this story in our shared human history of the encounter between race and authority, Mr. Scott will remain, paraphrasing that great 1980s song by British rock band Queen, another one who has bitten the dust. I grieve his death. I mourn with his family. I sorrow for Officer Slager and for us all.