An officer’s gunfire disrupted a hazy Saturday morning and left a man dead on a North Charleston street.
Police in a matter of hours declared the occurrence at the corner of Remount and Craig roads a traffic stop gone wrong, alleging the dead man fought with an officer over his Taser before deadly force was employed.
The officer’s account, witness statements and other evidence gathered from the scene are now the subject of a State Law Enforcement Division investigation to determine whether the shooting, the state’s 11th this year involving a lawmen, was justified.
A parking lot at Advance Auto Parts, 1945 Remount Road, was cordoned off with yellow tape well into the afternoon while investigators scoured the property and searched an older-model Mercedes-Benz that was said to have been driven by the deceased.
Police did not offer an explanation Saturday on why the man was pulled over around 9:30 a.m. for the traffic stop. Identities of the dead man and the officer also weren’t released by late Saturday night.
Family and friends who gathered at a North Charleston home and openly expressed their grief in the wake of the shooting, however, identified him as Walter Scott, 50, a black man.
His death came amid increased scrutiny of how police departments nationwide approach black men and questions about whether they too quickly resort to deadly force.
“Walter was a nice, good, honest person,” said Samuel Scott, a 55-year-old man who identified himself as Scott’s cousin. “He wasn’t no criminal. He wasn’t young and in the streets. He was a grown man working hard to take care of his family.”
Police accounts of the moments that led to Scott’s death weren’t credible in Samuel Scott’s eyes.
“He’s not a violent guy — never seen him argue with anybody. I just can’t see it,” Samuel Scott said.
A statement released by North Charleston police spokesman Spencer Pryor said a man ran on foot from the traffic stop and an officer deployed his department-issued Taser in an attempt to stop him.
That did not work, police said, and an altercation ensued as the men struggled over the device. Police allege that during the struggle the man gained control of the Taser and attempted to use it against the officer.
The officer then resorted to his service weapon and shot him, police alleged.
It was not immediately clear how many times Scott had been shot or where on his body he was wounded.
Officers tried to revive him prior to the arrival of paramedics, police said. But their efforts were in vain. He was pronounced dead at the scene, authorities said. Police did not immediately specify whether he was armed.
“This is part of the job that no one likes and wishes would never happen,” Police Chief Eddie Driggers is quoted in the release as saying. “This type of situation is unfortunate and difficult for everyone. We are confident that SLED will conduct a complete and thorough investigation into the incident and provide their findings to all concerned.”
SLED spokesman Thom Berry confirmed that SLED agents interviewed witnesses and gathered evidence at the scene.
“We are investigating the shooting incident itself,” Berry said. “That is the normal protocol whenever there is an officer-involved shooting. ... Once we complete that portion of the investigation, the agents will write up the case file and present it to the 9th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, and someone from that office will determine whether charges should be filed in connection with the shooting.”
James Johnson, president of the local chapter of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, alluded to the officer-involved deaths in Missouri and New York that spurred the “black lives matter” movement when he spoke with reporters at the scene of the violence. He urged the North Charleston community to wait for the conclusion of SLED’s investigation before protesting in the wake of the death.
“I don’t want this to become another Ferguson,” he said, referring to the Aug. 9, 2014 shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
The race of the officer who fired the shot that killed Scott was not released Saturday.
Friends and family members said they believed Scott was on Remount Road on Saturday morning to buy parts for the Mercedes he recently purchased.
They described him as an avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys. He loved to dance and sing, his loved ones said, and proposed last week to his longtime girlfriend.
They speculated about whether a set of rims he had installed on the car subjected him to profiling and struggled to find any explanation why he would have run from police.
“That doesn’t sound like Walter,” said family friend Nicole King. “I don’t understand. These police keep shooting people, but nobody’s got a gun. It just doesn’t make any sense. I don’t care what anyone says. Walter was a good man. No one can take that away.”
The National Action Network and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People plan to discuss the death at 2 p.m. Sunday at the site of the shooting.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.