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Those Eight Shots

Slager, Scott, and a quick arrest.....

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, April 08, 2015.

Most of you are too young to have endured the Old South. By the Old South, I mean the period before federal law started enforcing the civil rights of African Americans in the mid Fifties. Those years and previous featured regular, unexplained lynching of black males and disappearances of any supporters. Trials featured smirking, toothless white fat men on the jury in the few cases when one of their own inexplicably had been charged with murder. After a ten minute consultation, these juries would free the plaintiff on all counts, because he was white, they knew him, and sometimes blood related. Their celebratory pictures lacerated newspaper covers for approval in the South or condemnation in the North.

Despite undoubted progress, there have been elements in the South that still fester and want to return to those glorious days of yore. But, they're hampered by cell phone cameras and the Internet.

On April 4th, last Saturday, white policeman Michael Slager in North Charleston in South Carolina stopped a car driven by a fifty year old black man named Walter Scott. Scott had an outstanding warrant from Family Court. At some point there was an altercation and the officer drew his taser and it was fired, and wires seem to be attached to Scott's body. The taser was either knocked away by Scott or thrown by the officer, who drew his gun as Scott ran. Slager, about twenty feet away, fired eight shots, and Scott was killed and fell at the 8th, although we don't know how many actually hit him. Slager walked over and put handcuffs on the dead man and either dropped the taser or planted it depending on resident prejudices we all have.

It was all caught on video, apparently unknown to the officer. The video starts with Scott and Slager tusselling. What's new is that Slager has been charged with murder. His attorney off the bat is saying that Scott took Slager's stun gun after he was hit by the needles. All this sounds comparable to what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, except that here we have video and sound. Right off, we note that Officer Slager is younger and larger than Scott. Whatever inspired the taser to be drawn, it obviously didn't work if a firearm was drawn on the unarmed Scott running away.

Among the many things that bother me (because it isn't mentioned) is the bad shooting of the officer if he had to fire eight shots. As said, all may have hit, but it sure doesn't look like it. But why was it drawn at all? The man was not guilty of any serious crime and he had been tasered and was a lot smaller than the present and uniformed Arm of the Law, quickly reinforced by another officer. And would he have done the same if this incident took place in an upscale neighborhood rather than the where they were, a seedy park with nearby pawn shops? Stray bullets might hit and kill, God forfend, an innocent white person. Worse, an innocent white person with money and an attorney. But they were not, it was a less impressive location with black citizens and hell, are there any innocent black folks? They're all lowlife criminals don't you know.......not as advanced.

In my experience, I've known people who seriously think like that, and near but not all are from the South and the majority of them from South Carolina - the Palmetto State officially, the Treason State, actually - where the Civil War began.

In the 1950's and previous, a black man found shot eight times by several weapons could be blessed by Southern coroners - in compliance with police and newspapers and Citizen's Councils - as a suicide. Sometimes this clearly guilty party, despite his wounds, would be found hanging as proof. But that was then. South Carolina has a conservative non-white female Governor of east Indian heritage, whom I doubt anyone references as Bubba. And we have a black President. But, sans video, would the incident have been appropriately pursued?

So this time, though, the responsible party was near immediately arrested and charged with murder. Still doesn't happen often enough in these cases, but it is happening a lot more, and South Carolina is on a tear of late. On Tuesday following, another Palmetto State officer was, we're told, coincidentally arrested on a felony weapons charge regarding an earlier incident in February of 2014. Still: would this have happened without that video?