A white South Carolina police officer was arrested and charged with murder on Tuesday after a video showed him shooting eight times at the back of a 50-year-old black man who was running away after a traffic stop and died at the scene.
The FBI and the US Justice Department launched a separate investigation into the fatal shooting, which is the latest flashpoint in a series of incidents that have raised questions about policing and race relations across the country.
Civil rights leaders called for calm, while many on social media said the official response would have been very different had the incident not been filmed by a member of the public who then handed the video to the victim`s family.
“When you`re wrong, you`re wrong,” North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey told reporters, adding that the recording had been key in the decision to charge the officer.
“If you make a bad decision, I don`t care if you`re behind the shield or just a citizen on the street, you have to live by that decision,” Summey said.
The shooting occurred on Saturday morning after officer Michael Slager, 33, stopped Walter Scott for a broken brake light, police said.
The video shows a brief scuffle between the two men before Scott begins to run away. Slager is then seen taking aim with a handgun before shooting eight times at Scott`s back. Scott then slumps facedown onto the grass.
According to a police report, Slager, who joined the department in 2009, told other officers Scott had taken his stun gun from him. At no point in the video, which does not show the initial contact between the men, does Scott appear to be armed.
Slager places the victim in handcuffs as he lies face down on the ground, and then the officer takes several paces back to a spot near where he opened fire.
The video then shows him appearing to pick something up, return to Scott, and then drop it next to him on the ground.
The shooting took place in North Charleston, which is home to about 100,000 people, nearly half of whom are black, 2010 U.S. Census data shows.
By contrast, only about 18 percent of its police department’s roughly 340 officers are black, the local Post and Courier newspaper reported last year.