David Goldman / Pool / AP

Hundreds attend funeral of black South Carolina man shot by police

The killing reignited debate over disproportionate police violence against minorities

Hundreds of mourners, including prominent South Carolina politicians, attended the funeral Saturday of Walter Scott, an black father of four who was shot in the back while running from a white patrolman.

The body of the slain Coast Guard veteran, whose death was caught on a bystander's video, was carried in a flag-draped casket past the crowd assembled outside the W.O.R.D. Ministries Christian Center in Summerville, north of North Charleston, where the shooting took place on April 4.

Scott's death has reignited a national outcry over police treatment of minority groups that flared last year after the killings of unarmed black people in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City and elsewhere.

"This is a sad day," said Rev. James Johnson, who is president of the local chapter of civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network.

"God has got a reason for what has happened," he told Reuters before the service. "Hopefully this will heal the world."

Michael Slager, the North Charleston officer who fired eight times at Scott's back as he fled from a traffic stop, has been charged with murder and dismissed from the police force.

Sharpton, at a press conference on Saturday, said Scott's killing highlighted the urgent need for the Senate to confirm Loretta Lynch as the first African-American woman to serve as U.S. attorney general.

Scott's family, who were escorted to the funeral by law enforcement officers, had changed their mind on allowing media to attend after a newspaper reported that the family wanted Sharpton to stay away, Johnson said. Sharpton was always welcome, though the family had not scheduled him as a speaker, he said.

Sharpton said he had a scheduling conflict on Saturday, the last day of his organization's convention in New York, but would attend a vigil in North Charleston on Sunday and meet with Scott's family.

"The world has seen this tape of a man shot at eight times, four of them in the back," Sharpton said. U.S. Senator Tim Scott and congressmen Mark Sanford and James Clyburn were among about 500 people at the funeral, which was open to the public.

Scott, 50, was driving a black Mercedes-Benz when he was pulled over by Slager, 33, for a broken tail light. Video from the dashboard camera in Slager's police cruiser recorded a respectful exchange between the two men before the officer returned to his patrol car.

A few minutes later, after being told by Slager to stay in the Mercedes, Scott emerged from his car and ran off. He was apparently unarmed.

A second video by a bystander showed the men in a brief tussle before Scott ran off again, Slager fired his gun and Scott slumped into the grass.

Scott had a history of arrests for failing to pay child support and was forced out of the U.S. Coast Guard in 1986 after more than two years of service due to a drug offense.

He was nonetheless discharged under honorable conditions because he had a good record of service, the Coast Guard said.


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