SLED: Agents interviewed officer at length

Michael Slager

Investigators wanted the North Charleston police officer who shot Walter Scott to answer questions about the killing, but they dropped their request when he mentioned his lawyer, a State Law Enforcement Division official said Tuesday.

SLED agents arrived at the scene at 10:29 a.m. April 4, about 51 minutes after Patrolman 1st Class Michael Slager fatally shot Scott in the back as Scott ran away. They later asked Slager to answer some questions.

“When our investigators spoke with ... Slager at the scene, he said he was represented by an attorney,” SLED spokesman Thom Berry said Tuesday. “We stopped questioning him and contacted his attorney.”

The agency has said that investigators developed early suspicions of Slager from evidence they found at the scene, but Berry for the first time Tuesday indicated the extent to which they pushed the officer to clarify his account.

After Slager deflected their request, the agents got in touch with his lawyer, David Aylor, who said he would make the officer available for an interview three days later, on April 7, Berry said.

That’s the day when video of Slager shooting Scott publicly surfaced. But Berry did not say whether agents had a chance to confront Slager about the footage before it became public late that Tuesday afternoon.

The agents’ interview with Slager that started that morning at Aylor’s office was a lengthy one, Berry said.

“The interview continued into the afternoon,” he said. “Slager was arrested following the interview.”

Aylor put out a statement the day before his client’s arrest that said Slager “felt threatened” by Scott and shot the man who had grabbed his Taser. The attorney would not further explain Slager’s account or say whether Scott had used the Taser against the officer.

Aylor on Tuesday again declined to discuss the case, and Berry did not divulge what Slager said during the interview.

The attorney announced publicly after the officer’s arrest that he would not represent Slager any further.

Andy Savage, a Charleston attorney, filed paperwork the next day to take on Slager as a client.

He said in a statement Friday that Aylor had been employed by the Southern States Police Benevolent Association to represent Slager because of the officer’s membership in the group. But Savage said that the association and Aylor had not started any investigation for Slager’s defense before he took the case.

Like many attorneys for officers involved in shootings, Savage has said in the past that the officers can better recall incidents after a few days of rest.

Savage has not commented publicly about the facts of Slager’s case, and he said Tuesday that he was still struggling to get information from authorities.

Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.