The world at large didn’t know Feidin Santana’s name before he captured the police shooting of Walter Scott on a grainy cellphone video. Now, Santana appears intent on dialing back the clock to the days before he was hailed a hero in the fight against police brutality.
The 23-year-old North Charleston man has slipped quietly from the spotlight in recent months, and friends say he just wants to be left alone, to live his life outside the glare of media interviews and public proclamations. Some said he has returned to the Dominican Republic, where he was born, though The Post and Courier could not verify that.
The Dominican barbershop in North Charleston where Santana worked is now a beauty salon and school specializing in natural hair. Its manager, Shawnteal Weaver, said Santana left the area around Thanksgiving.
Santana’s attorney, Democratic state Rep. Todd Rutherford of Columbia, wouldn’t disclose his client’s location because Santana has opted to retreat from the public eye. Rutherford added, however, that Santana will be ready to attend the murder trial of former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager when the time comes.
“This has been devastating for him personally by simply being a witness to a shooting,” Rutherford said. “He never made this about him. He doesn’t want to make this about him. He witnessed a crime. He wanted to come forward and do something about it.”
Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, whose office is prosecuting Slager, also would not discuss Santana’s whereabouts. She said only that she had no concerns about his availability for the trial.
Santana was walking to work on April 4, 2015, when he spotted a commotion and pulled out his cellphone to film the confrontation between Slager and Scott. The video exploded across the internet when it was released a few days later, challenging Slager’s account of the shooting and leading to his arrest.
The shy Santana soon found himself at the center of an international story, sought after by journalists from around the world and showered with accolades, including a proclamation from state lawmakers. The video helped spur passage of a bill requiring all law enforcement agencies to equip their officers with body cameras. He was even invited to witness Gov. Nikki Haley sign the measure into law in June.
But all along he resisted the notion that he was a hero. A man of faith, he said he simply did what God would have wanted him to do — right a wrong.
“I thought long and hard about how this would affect my life,” Santana told The Post and Courier last year. “But from the start, when I took the decision to turn in this video, my vision was that it would trigger a positive change.”
Cynthia Roldan and Deanna Pan contributed to this article.