As he fought with Walter Scott, a North Charleston policeman likely used his Taser several times with little effect until the stun gun fell to the ground, recently released documents indicate.
The officer then pulled his pistol and fatally shot Scott in the back.
The supplemental incident reports from police detectives and supervisors give details about evidence found at the scene. Released after a request from The Post and Courier, they are some of the first records that help interpret the cellphone video showing officer Michael Slager opening fire as Scott tried to run away on April 4.
North Charleston detectives found two discharged Taser cartridges, Scott’s hat, some keys and shell casings, but what’s missing from their observations — the stun gun — indicated that Slager picked up the device before they arrived. Officers are trained to secure any loose weapons at a scene.
What happened with the Taser was the focus of wide public speculation when the bystander’s video surfaced three days after Scott’s death, renewing nationwide scrutiny on officers’ use of deadly force on black men. The footage appears to show Slager’s Taser falling during the fight. After the shooting, Slager fetches it and drops it near Scott’s body, only to pick it up again seconds later.
Neither Slager’s attorney, Andy Savage of Charleston, nor a spokesman from the State Law Enforcement Division, which investigated the shooting, would comment on the documents. Slager remains jailed without bail on a murder charge.
The evidence that would be documented in the reports gave pause for family members and other onlookers who showed up at the scene that day. The distance between the site of the struggle and where Scott fell prompted suspicions of a North Charleston Police Department account that the 50-year-old man posed a threat to Slager when he was killed.
Those skeptics included Scott’s brother, Anthony Scott, who started using his cellphone to take pictures of the site. The documents also showed how the authorities handled him.
Though Scott’s brother was standing outside the crime-scene tape, a SLED agent told North Charleston officers to confiscate his phone as evidence, according to the paperwork. Anthony Scott was not around at the time of the shooting, but the officers told him that he could be compromising evidence by being there, he said.
Though he was allowed by law to refuse, Anthony Scott relinquished his phone, figuring at the time that he didn’t have a choice.
“Looking back at it, I still can’t say that they were trying to cover something up, but I do know ... they had something to cover up,” he said. “They definitely had something to cover up based on the evidence which we’ve seen so far.”
Slager had stopped Scott’s 1990 Mercedes-Benz that morning because of a broken brake light.
With his car parked outside an auto parts store at Remount and Craig roads as Slager checked his identification, Scott got out and started running. He was wearing a hat.
Coupled with a thorough analysis of the video, the new documents offer insight into what happened next.
When the video starts, bystander Feidin Santana’s cellphone is turned vertically. Despite the shaky footage, it offers a glimpse of Scott and Slager struggling on the ground.
Seconds later, after the camera is briefly obstructed by trees and turned horizontally, both men are standing. Slager’s left hand is clenched around Scott’s right wrist.
Two black Taser cartridges already lie on the paved road. One rests between Scott and Slager, who are separated by a couple of feet. The other is several feet to Slager’s left.
Scott’s hat lies in the dirt nearby.
Though several cartridges had been fired, the Taser still could be used to shock a suspect through direct contact, but it’s unclear whether Slager had such an opportunity.
A mostly black object then falls and starts rolling end over end on the ground behind Slager. It’s unclear how it got loose during their struggle. As the object bounds along, a lighter color is visible — apparently the silver Taser X-26 logo on the handle of Slager’s stun gun.
As Scott runs, one of the Taser cartridges skips through the grass behind him. Wires attached to the cartridge lead to Scott, indicating that he likely had been hit by the Taser’s shock-delivering prongs.
Slager fires eight .45-caliber bullets, hitting Scott five times.
After the officer walks up to Scott’s body, he returns to where he had opened fire. Taken from a new angle because Santana had moved, the video shows Slager pick up what appears to be the Taser.
Slager carries it in his right hand — at first behind his back, then at his side — as he walks back toward Scott’s body. A backup officer — Clarence Habersham — arrives and starts tending to the dead or dying man.
Slager drops the device from his hand, and it lands in the grass near Scott’s right side.
Nineteen seconds later, as Habersham tends to Scott, Slager picks up an object from the grass near Scott’s right side, apparently putting the Taser back into its holster on the left side of his belt.
The video ends showing the other Taser cartridge below Scott’s feet and his hat still visible on the dirt road yards away.
Slager’s attorney declined to discuss details of the video.
A North Charleston police lieutenant took note of the locations of evidence at the scene, along with a cellphone near Scott’s head, according to her supplemental report.
Though SLED agents were in charge of documenting the evidence in detail and collecting it, North Charleston detectives fanned out in search of witnesses.
SLED spokesman Thom Berry refused to discuss the extent to which the state agency uses investigators whose fellow officers are involved in shootings.
The North Charleston detectives found several witnesses, including two delivery drivers at the nearby Advance Auto Parts store.
A sergeant took Anthony Scott’s phone and told him to move to where his family was standing. Police Chief Eddie Driggers would return his phone later that day.
A captain spoke with Slager, though the supervisor did not complete a report with what the patrolman said.
Other investigators took Scott’s passenger, Pierre Fulton, to police headquarters. They got little from him as he insisted on seeing his lawyer before answering any questions. But he talked about how the shooting had marked a turn for the worst.
Fulton kept repeating, a detective wrote in a supplemental report, “that everything was positive, and now it’s all negative, and he didn’t know why.”
But any video of the shooting, Fulton said, might answer that question.
Melissa Boughton contributed to this report. Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.