Shortly after Walter Scott’s death, a North Charleston police officer told his wife that he had shot somebody and later talked with a supervisor about the adrenaline rush.
The supervisor also informed Patrolman 1st Class Michael Slager that state agents probably would not ask him any questions about the April 4 shooting until he got a few days of rest, according to the conversations captured on the officer’s in-car camera within a half-hour of the gunfire.
Investigators from the State Law Enforcement Division later arrested Slager on a murder charge after a bystander’s video showed him firing eight times at Scott, 50, who was running away.
SLED spokesman Thom Berry said agents interviewed Slager three days later on April 7, the day the video was made public and the officer was jailed. Berry would not say if they had a chance earlier to talk with the officer, though SLED’s chief has said that agents were troubled by what they saw at the scene.
Local defense attorneys who represent officers involved in shootings have said that they prefer to have their clients submit to a drug test but not give any statements to SLED. Instead, they contend that the time off helps them better remember what happened.
“Each case has to be approached separately,” Berry said. “Each case in each scenario is unique. We work according to what we find when we get to the scene.”
The dash footage does not show Slager, but it contains audio from the officer’s body-worn microphone that’s linked to the camera. About 23 minutes after the gunfire, Slager answers a ringing cellphone.
“Everything’s OK, OK?” he assures the caller. “I just shot somebody.”
Much of the conversation is unintelligible in the recording, but near the end, Slager tells the caller something that would later be repeated in a police statement and an account provided through his attorney at the time.
“He grabbed my Taser, yeah,” Slager says. “I’m fine.”
Less than a minute after he hangs up, Slager says to a supervisor that he had “just told (his) wife” about the shooting.
“What happens next?” the officer asks.
The supervisor explains that Slager would be taken to North Charleston Police Department headquarters so he could take off his uniform. His clothes would be considered evidence. He also would hand over his pistol.
But the process would be quick, the supervisor says.
Agents from SLED, which typically investigates officer-involved shootings in South Carolina, would give Slager a couple of days before asking him any questions, the supervisor adds.
“By the time you get home, it will probably be a good idea to jot down your thoughts (on) what happened,” the supervisor says. “The adrenaline gets pumping and stuff.”
“It’s pumping,” Slager says, laughing.
“Oh, yeah,” the supervisor says. “Oh, yeah.”
Slager had pulled over Scott’s Mercedes-Benz for a broken brake light at 9:33 a.m. that day. During the traffic stop, Scott, who had an active arrest warrant for failing to pay child support, jumped out of the Mercedes and ran.
The two soon got into a confrontation. Slager later said he “felt threatened” during the encounter because Scott grabbed his Taser, so he fired at Scott with his .45-caliber Glock.
But the bystander’s video shows Scott breaking free from a struggle with the officer, running and being shot five times from behind around 9:38 a.m.
During his conversation with his supervisor on the dash video, which started around 10:03 a.m., Slager ponders why the man had run.
“Whatever,” he says.
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.