Pierre Fulton, who was a passenger in the car when Walter Scott fled from a traffic stop and was shot and killed by a North Charleston police officer, said he is still in mourning over his close friend and will never know why he ran.
“Walter was a dear friend, and I miss him every day,” Fulton stated in a release from Charleston attorney Mark Peper. “Over the past five years, he helped me to become a better man and showed me the value of hard work. I’ll never know why he ran, but I know he didn’t deserve to die. Please keep Walter and his family in your prayers and respect my privacy moving forward.”
Peper said in the release that it will be the only statement his client makes before any court proceeding.
“We hope this statement is sufficient enough to allow him to continue the healing process in a private manner,” the release states.
Fulton was riding in the vehicle with Scott when he was pulled over April 4 on Remount Road by North Charleston Patrolman 1st Class Michael T. Slager.
Slager, who was alone in his cruiser when he made the traffic stop, shot at Scott eight times as he fled on foot. He has been charged with murder.
Fulton was briefly detained. He provided a statement Friday afternoon to the State Law Enforcement Division and revealed his identity publicly late Monday.
A legal expert and former police officer said Monday Slager should have stayed with the car rather than run after Scott.
“This is a matter of police practice, not a legal issue,” said Seth Stoughton, an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law. “Legally, there’s nothing wrong with an officer chasing a fleeing driver and leaving the passenger. It’s just not a great idea in most cases.”
A spokesman for the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy, Maj. Florence McCants, said Slager did not violate police procedure when he chased Scott.
“There is no hard and fast rule. That is the officer’s discretion,” she said.
Stoughton said there are several reasons it is better for a police officer to remain with the car he stopped rather than chase a driver fleeing on foot.
“The passenger is probably going to be able to tell you who the driver is and perhaps even why they ran, plus the officer gets the chance to secure evidence that happens to be in the vehicle,” he said.
Stoughton served five years as an officer with the Tallahassee, Fla., police department.
Chasing a fleeing driver on foot gives the passenger a chance to drive the suspect vehicle away or worse, if the officer left his patrol car unlocked and running, he said.
If an officer has back-up on the scene, having one officer give chase while the other stays with the vehicle may be a viable option, Stoughton said.
“When an officer is working solo, though, I’d have the officer stay with the occupied vehicle,” Stoughton said.
According to a background check with SLED, Fulton has been convicted on charges of possession of ice/crack cocaine, sale to or possession by a certain person of a stolen pistol, unlawful carrying of a weapon and entering premises after warning.
Reach Melissa Boughton at 937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughton.