Charleston, SC (WLTX) - A former South Carolina police officer who killed an unarmed man has pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges against him, a move that will spare him a second trial on murder charges in connection to the death.
Michael Slager entered the plea Tuesday afternoon at the federal courthouse in Charleston during a 30 minute hearing. In exchange for the guilty plea, the local prosecutor agreed to drop the still pending murder charge against him in the killing of 50-year-old Walter Scott.
Specifically, Slager admitted to using excessive force, and he told the open court that his force was "objectively unreasonable."
Scott's family wiped away tears as the details of the case were recited in court. After the decision was made, Slager was led out of court in handcuffs.
"We asked for justice, and we received justice," said Anthony Scott, the brother of Walter Scott. "Today [Slager] told the truth. He said he did it. That's our victory. The healing starts today. For my family, the healing starts today."
"Today is a day of victory for Walter," said Scott's mother, Judy Scott. "We got justice."
Slager will be sentenced at a later date. He could face a maximum of life in prison on the charge, and would have the option of appealing that decision.
Anthony Scott said he feels Slager deserves life in prison.
Slager's first trial on the murder charge ended in a mistrial last December, when jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict. The panel spent nearly 20 hours over four days deliberating before the judge agreed with them that they were hopelessly deadlocked.
Back on April 4th of 2015, Slager--who was then working for the North Charleston police department-- pulled Scott over for a failed brake light. Scott was in the process of buying a used Mercedes Benz from his neighbor and did not have insurance or registration in his name for the car.
As Slager was checking his information, Scott ran from his car and Slager took off after him. Dashcam video captured the beginning of the chase, but the seconds following, as Scott and Slager ran 200 yards to a side street on Remount Road, are still a mystery.
Slager has repeatedly said that he fired his Taser, with a cartridge attached, two times and got in a ground fight with Scott as he was trying to arrest him.
A cell phone video taken by Feidin Santana, a man walking to work that day, picked up the tail end of the fight and showed Scott running away as Slager fires eight shots, hitting Scott five times in the back.
Slager had maintained from the beginning that he fired in self-defense.
After the video became public, Slager was fired, his attorney dropped him as a client, and he was arrested and booked on the murder charge.
Jury selection in Slager's retrial was to have taken place next week in Columbia.