Public funds from North Charleston will cover most of the city’s $6.5 million wrongful-death settlement with Walter Scott’s family, court documents filed this week stated.
Under the deal, attorneys for Scott’s loved ones will get about $2.4 million of the total.
City officials had agreed in October to the payout, one of the largest related to a police shooting that has caught national attention. But the family’s filing of the settlement in Charleston County civil court on Thursday seeks a judge’s final approval.
There was no indication as to when a judge might make that move.
The S.C. Insurance Reserve Fund, which backs many governments in the state, will contribute $1 million — the maximum allowed by law — to the settlement. Officials have said that a city fund that contains $18 million will bear the remaining $5.5 million. All but $1 million of that will be paid in a lump sum.
The court documents provided further confirmation of the settlement and revealed new details about how the money will be distributed. The agreement halted a federal civil rights lawsuit that the family attorneys had vowed to file. Such a suit could have been a top-to-bottom review of the policies, police tactics and actions by officers said to have contributed to Scott’s death.
The city’s attorney, Brady Hair, reiterated Friday that the settlement was fair to the family and North Charleston. The cooperative negotiations between the sides for months before the announcement gave rise to that result and helped stave off the same uproar that befell other cities nationwide in the wake of controversial police shootings, he said.
“If you compare what happened in other cities, such as Baltimore, Ferguson (Missouri) and now Chicago, there is no doubt that the manner the Scott case was handled was a victory for the city of North Charleston, the Scott family and the state of South Carolina,” Hair said. “No brick was thrown, no building was burned and no violence occurred in the city after this event.”
The settlement could prove to be just one result of the shooting’s aftermath.
Scott’s death prompted calls from critics of the North Charleston Police Department for a committee to review policing in the city. The U.S. Department of Justice, which is still investigating the shooting, has recommended that the police form a citizens advisory panel to serve as a “sounding board” with minority communities, according to emails from city officials. Talks of the panel had been going on before the shooting, the officials said.
Police officer Michael Slager shot Scott in the back as the 50-year-old ran away in April. The shooting was captured on a cell phone video that stoked tensions over policing tactics in the community and raised further scrutiny of officers’ use of force against black men. Slager was fired and arrested on a murder charge when the footage surfaced three days later.
Absolved from further liability under the settlement are Slager himself, Mayor Keith Summey, City Council members, Police Chief Eddie Driggers and former Chief Jon Zumalt. Also named is officer Clarence Habersham, the first patrolman to arrive at the scene after the shooting. He was the focus of much public criticism over how much he tried to help the dying Scott and over what he saw Slager doing in the moments after the gunfire. Habersham did not face charges.
As the video of the shooting and its immediate aftermath emerged, attorneys for the family spoke out in news media appearances and at other public events. They included Chris Stewart in Atlanta and Justin Bamberg, a state representative from Bamberg County.
Under the death settlement, three law firms — Stewart, Seay & Felton; Lanier and Burroughs of Orangeburg; and Knight & Whittington of Summerville — will get a total of about $2,381,000 in costs and fees.
Of the remaining money, a small hospital bill for Scott will be paid.
About $17,000 will go to his former wife, Lisa, whom Scott owed back child support payments. A warrant for Scott’s arrest for not paying her was seen as a factor in his decision to run from the April 4 traffic stop.
Annuities totaling $1 million will be set up for three of Scott’s four children. The children, all but one of whom are grown, will get monthly or yearly payments.
Scott’s estate, represented by his brother, Anthony, will be left with $3 million. The primary beneficiaries of the money are Scott’s heirs, his four children.
The Scotts’ lead attorneys, Stewart and Bamberg, said in a joint statement Friday that they were pleased the resolution “will not have a negative impact on taxpayers.”
“Mayor Summey and others in leadership with the city of North Charleston acted quickly to resolve a painful situation for many in this area,” they said. “The family commends them for their actions and hopes for a positive and productive future for the city.”
Brenda Rindge contributed to this report. Reach Andrew Knapp at 843-937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.
North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers (left) and Mayor Keith Summey announce that Michael Slager would be charged with murder three days after April 4 shooting Walter Scott.×