Former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager is awaiting his sentence after pleading guilty to shooting an unarmed black man in the back as he fled, CNN reports.
In 2015, the North Charleston cop was recorded on video shooting Walter Scott in the back as he ran away.
Feidin Santana, who recorded the video, told the court, “it was abuse and something that wasn’t necessary.”
Slager had pulled over Scott over a broken taillight. Scott attempted to run away. Slager used his Taser but was unable to stop Scott. He used his Taser a second time and got Scott to the ground but he got up and took off again. This time, Slager opened fire, killing Scott.
Santana’s video showed Slager fire eight shots, hitting Scott in the back five times.
“He (shot) the man running,” Santana testified.
Slager claimed in court that he believed Scott was a threat despite running away, arguing that even at 18 feet away Scott could have turned around and charged at him.
“Scott would never stop after I gave him multiple commands to stop,” Slager testified.
“I knew I was in trouble,” Slager claimed. “I was in total fear Mr. Scott didn’t stop, continued to come towards me.”
In May, Slager pleaded guilty to federal charges of deprivation of rights under color of law after his state murder trial ended in a mistrial.
A probation officer has recommended Slager gets between 10 and 13 years in prison but federal prosecutors are seeking a life sentence.
Prosecutors say Slager repeatedly lied to investigators and to the court and accuse him of tampering with the crime scene by planting his Taser next to Scott’s body.
His attorneys insist that Slager did not lie, and used the “Jeff Sessions defense” to claim Slager simply forgot.
According to court documents obtained by CBS News, his lawyers compared Slager’s bad recollection of the events to Sessions’ testimony to Congress. Sessions said he could “not recall” more than 85 times to Congress.
“Unlike Slager, who had been in what he perceived as a life and death struggle before he made his statements, Sessions had time to prepare for his congressional testimony, yet still often got it wrong,” they wrote in their brief. “Why? According to Sessions, he was working in chaotic conditions created by the Trump campaign. This was undoubtedly stressful, though not as stressful as having shot a man to death, or dealing with the aftermath of that, or facing the death penalty or life in prison. As Sessions made clear in his statement, a failure to recall, or an inaccurate recollection, does not a liar make.”
“Like Sessions, Slager never lied or misled anyone,” they wrote. “Like Sessions, he answered the questions that were asked. When he had his memory refreshed, he added the refreshed recollection to his testimony. When he failed to remember certain items, it can be attributed to the stress or chaos of the event during which the memory should have been formed.”