The former South Carolina police officer who was captured on video shooting unarmed black motorist Walter Scott as he ran away from a traffic stop has been released from prison on bond.
Circuit Judge Clifton Newman in Charleston on Monday allowed a $500,000 surety bond for Michael Slager but said he will have to remain on house arrest in the state once he is released.
Slager was indicted on a murder charge in June and Newman refused to set bond in September, saying his release would ‘constitute an unreasonable danger to the community.’
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Michael Slager (left) has been released from prison on a $500,000 bond by a South Carolina judge. Slager has been charged with shooting at Walter Scott (right) eight times during a traffic stop as he was running away
A bystander recorded the shooting in dramatic cellphone video that sent shockwaves across America
But on Monday Newman said he was troubled by the delay in Slager’s trial and said he had decided to grant him bail, which the former cop posted around 5.30pm.
He added that Slagger would only be able to leave his home for court hearings, as well as to see his lawyers and doctors and attend church, according to NBC.
Slager’s attorneys had requested a speedy trial that would begin in March or April, but prosecutor Scarlett Wilson said the state wanted to begin in November.
Wilson is also prosecuting Dylann Roof, the white suspect in the killings of nine black parishioners at the Emanuel AME church last year, in a July trial.
She said the state Supreme Court order protects her from trying other cases before that one.
Newman set Slager’s trial to begin October 31.
On April 4 a cell phone video recorded by a bystander captured Slager, 34, firing eight times at Scott, 50, as he ran away from a traffic stop.
Slager told investigators after the incident that Scott tried to grab his gun and Taser.
But Wilson told the court that Scott was running away from the officer and that the only time Slager picked up the Taser and dropped it by Scott’s body after shooting him dead.
In October a $6.5m settlement was reached with Scott’s family after it was approved by the North Charleston City Council in a 10-0 vote.
Slager’s wife and parents broke down in tears in the courtroom after Newman announced his decision, according to The Post and Courier.
Walter Scott, Sr. and Judy Scott, parents of Walter Scott, look on during a bond hearing for former police officer Michael Slager. Some of Scott’s family members were present when it was announced they’d be awarded $6.5 million on Thursday
Justin Bamberg, the attorney for Scott’s family, said they were disappointed by the ruling but respected it.
He also urged the community to remain ‘as peaceful as we have been’.
‘Know that at the end of the day, the justice system is going to run its course,’ he said.
‘While nothing can replace having Walter in our lives, the City of North Charleston’s historic action ensures that he did not die in vain,’ Scott’s brother Anthony said, noting the settlement will provide for Scott’s children.
‘It was a bittersweet victory,’ he added. ‘The family still wants justice for my brother and this was a step in the right direction.’
Anthony Scott said the family plans to donate some of the money from the settlement to disaster relief for victims of the recent floods in South Carolina.
Mayor Keith Summey said he was pleased with the settlement.
‘The family took steps to keep the community calm, and for that the city is thankful,’ he said. ‘This is a very difficult period for the Scott family. I know they are glad to have this part behind them so their healing process can continue.’
The bystander’s cellphone video showed Slager firing eight times as Scott ran. The shooting inflamed the national debate about how blacks are treated by law enforcement officers.
Slager was indicted on a murder charge in June and a judge refused to set bond in October, saying his release would ‘constitute an unreasonable danger to the community’
After the video went public, the family called for peace and calm in the community.
The mayor said that since the shooting, North Charleston police have been outfitted with body cameras. Slager was not wearing one.
Summey also noted the police department will be working with a division of the Department of Justice that helps local communities resolve issues involving race, color, national origin or gender.
Slager was fired following his arrest on the murder charges and has been detained in solitary confinement.
Before the video was brought to the attention of authorities, Slager had told investigators that Scott tried to grab his gun and Taser.
But prosecutor Scarlett Wilson said Scott was running away and the only time Slager could be seen running was to go back, pick up the Taser and then drop it by Scott’s body.
Slager faces from 30 years to life in prison without parole if he is convicted of murder.
There were no aggravating circumstances such as robbery or kidnapping, so the death penalty doesn’t apply in the case, the prosecutor has said.