Witness to slaying honored by House

Feidin Santana is congratulated by Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, after he was recognized by the S.C. House for his efforts in filming and turning over the footage of the Walter Scott shooting. At the end of the ceremony, Gilliard gave Santana his pen used by Gov. Nikki Haley to sign the police body camera bill.

Feidin Santana, who filmed the deadly shooting of Walter Scott with his cellphone, said his life has changed since April 4.

“Even though I didn’t have the opportunity to meet Walter Scott, because of him, I met my true self,” he said Thursday after receiving a resolution from the S.C. House honoring him. “I met the Feidin Santana that will stand up for truth without fearing the consequences, the Feidin Santana that without a second thought would stand up for justice and the Feidin Santana that would give everything for justice and love.”

Charleston Democratic Rep. Wendell Gilliard presented Santana with a plaque at the International Longshoremen’s Association Hall in front of several community leaders and activists. The resolution acknowledges that Santana’s “coming forward with the video contributed to an orderly and prompt judicial processing of the incident.”

“If it were not for him, you and I would not be in this room having this discussion,” Gilliard said. “He’s the one who took it upon himself to record that infamous act of what happened to that young brother that’s now seen around the world. He should be deemed as a hero.”

Santana was walking from his job, when he saw Scott being chased on foot by North Charleston Patrolman 1st Class Michael Slager. When Santana saw the two men struggling, he started recording.

Slager has since been indicted for murder and is awaiting trial.

All of the community leaders and activists at the table with Santana thanked him for his efforts and said they were proud of him.

“If I’ve got any hero in life, he’s sitting right here,” said Pastor Thomas Dixon, founder of The Coalition: People United to Take Back Our Community. “Thank you for what you did; thank you for who you are and thank you for opening the door for me to know you.”

Santana would not talk about what he saw outside of the recording or why he started filming the incident, but he said God gave him a lot of strength to bring the video forward and he thanked the community for its support in the aftermath of what happened.

“I give thanks to God for giving me the strength to keep myself focused in my decision and secondly to open my eyes, to see it’s not too late to hope for a better society,” he said. “Finally, to show people that one action, one decision can change the lives of many people. Let’s not wait for more families to suffer while we have the power in our hand to change it right now.”

Santana was also present Wednesday in North Charleston, where Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill that seeks to equip South Carolina officers with body cameras into law. Gilliard helped shepherd the Senate bill through the House.

“These body cameras won’t be worth it unless we have love and understanding for each other,” Santana said Thursday. “Let’s be there when the community needs us because it’s our duty to protect each other. Let’s not be silent and support the impunity and corruption in our society.

“God has a purpose for all of us, and Walter Scott was no exception. It would be my biggest reward to remember him as a lesson and reflection that we, as a community, have a long way to go to protect justice and liberty for all.”

Reach Melissa Boughton at 937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughton.