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“It Might Be Fox-Proof But It’s Not Foolproof”: The Video Of The Walter Scott Killing Has Silenced Fox Critics

The video that Feidin Santana took of Michael Slager, a white North Charleston, South Carolina police officer, allegedly shooting and killing Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man, is Fox-proof.

The three-minute-plus video shut up the inevitable police apologists who’d always find a way to blame the black guy for his own death by saying he acted in a threatening manner. But now, even Fox News folks are saying it’s right and just that Slager has been charged with murder.

“This is not Ferguson,” Andrew Napolitano said on Fox & Friends on Wednesday. “In Ferguson, there was a bona fide fight over the officer’s gun and the officer won the fight. This is [sic] two disparate cases. This is a victim running away from the police, shot in the back. This is what some people said Ferguson was, but it turned out it wasn’t.”

Dr. Ben Carson, Fox’s favorite black GOP presidential candidate, called it “an execution.”

(UPDATE: You might think that the dash-cam video released last night showing the traffic stop and Scott running away would trigger a Fox instinct to reverse course and blame the victim. But, so far, that hasn’t happened. Sean Hannity said last night that Scott “was not a threat to anybody” and that it’s “irrelevant what happened leading up to” Slager shooting him. And this morning on Fox, conservative radio host Lars Larson said he still believes “the officer committed murder.”)

No, the Fox line seems to be that now that Slager is sitting in jail without bail, justice has been served, the system works. So let’s move on, folks. And, oh yeah, it’s not a race thing. Greg Gutfeld on Fox’s The Five claimed, as if channeling the “color-blind” Stephen Colbert, “I didn’t see a black man killed by a white cop. I saw a man shoot another man in the back.”

That’s funny, because the video is incredibly detailed and definitive. Arguably more definitive than the videos showing the death-by-chokehold of Eric Garner in New York, or the death of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy in Cleveland shot by police for playing with what turned out to be a toy gun, or the unprovoked shooting of an unarmed man, Levar Jones, by a South Carolina state trooper, or the brutal beating of Rodney King that set off the Los Angeles riots in 1991 after the officers were acquitted. They are all shocking videos, and they led to various degrees of punishment—or not—for the police involved. But the Walter Scott video is the most overwhelmingly convincing of them all.

While it’s always possible for video to be misleading or confusing, Santana’s isn’t. We don’t have to wonder what’s not in the picture.

First of all, it’s long. It’s true, the video doesn’t show the very beginning, when Slager stops Scott for a broken tail-light and Scott reportedly runs into a nearby grassy field. That’s where Slager used a taser on Scott and claims that the motorist tried to wrestle it from him; the officer told authorities he “feared for his life.”

It’s at that point that Feidin Santana, a young man walking his regular route to his job at a barbershop, began recording the incident on his cell phone. As Scott runs away from him, Slager is seen firing at Scott’s back eight times until he falls to the ground. After cuffing Scott, who is possibly dead at this point, Slager goes back to pick up what appears to be the stun gun and drops it near Scott’s body, as if to frame Scott as a very dangerous man. (The video also appears to show that none of the police who soon arrived administered any life-saving measures.)

Secondly, the video is shot in the middle distance—not so far that people look like blurry dots, nor so close or narrowly framed that vital information is missing. (The too-close classic: footage of people tearing down a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad after the American invasion. They looked like a passionate, American-welcoming mob—until later footage zoomed out to reveal they were a small group of people who needed help from an American military vehicle to actually take the statue down.)

Santana’s video is choppy and shaky, surely because he was nervous, but also because he was moving with the action. “I witnessed it with my eyes and let the video do the recording,” he said in one of his several MSNBC and NBC interviews. Toward the end of the video, Santana still more bravely walks closer to the officer and Scott’s body. Widely called a hero, Santana said that early on he considered erasing the video because he feared for his life. But after reading the police report that made it seem that Scott was the aggressor, Santana gave the video to the Scott family.

The worst thing about the video is that it surfaced by pure chance. “A gift from god,” the Scott family lawyer, Chris Stewart, told MSNBC’s Joy Reid. “A person happened to be in the right spot at the right time to see this incident, and be quick enough to pull out that phone and record it. And not only that, that probably happens all the time. Right now somebody is probably filming an incident that if they stepped forward it would help that person, but they’re going to keep driving or keep walking or say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to get involved,’ or feel threatened or scared.”

Walter Scott’s younger brother, Anthony, put it best. “I hate that it had to be a video to prove to take it to this level. Because we have fallen brothers all the time, and they just fall for different reasons in different parts of the country, and they’re just not investigated or taken to this level. And I think it should be looked in deeper.” He’s hoping for justice, he said, but “I won’t be satisfied till I hear a guilty verdict.”

Indeed, this video might be Fox-proof but it’s not foolproof. Nor are the increasing number of body cams and dashboard cams used by police departments throughout the country. They can absolutely help—North Charleston has them on order, and if Slager had been using one, it’s reasonable to wager that Scott would still be alive.

Cameras, however, whether wielded by bystanders or police (or with the help of apps that film and upload to YouTube with one push of a button), don’t get to the root of police corruption and systemic racism.

But video is now a matter of life and death, crime and punishment, and all too often it’s the only way that white people and white media will believe what black people have to say.

 

By: Leslie Savan, The Nation, April 10, 2015

April 14, 2015 Posted by | Fox News, Police Violence, Walter Scott | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Lonesome Death Of Walter Scott”: Why Michael Thomas Slager Should Share The Blame

Soon after video recorded by Feidin Santana showing officer Michael Thomas Slager killing Walter Scott went public, Ed Driggers, the chief of the North Charleston, South Carolina, police force where Slager was once employed, spoke to the press. Like an increasing number of law enforcement officials as of late, Driggers found himself suddenly thrust into the media spotlight, tasked with explaining to an outraged nation why one of his officers used deadly force against an unarmed African-American, a 50-year-old father of four, who posed no threat.

But although Driggers’ public appearance was, on a superficial level, all too reminiscent of what we recently saw in places as disparate as Ferguson, Missouri; Cleveland, Ohio; Staten Island, New York; and Los Angeles, California, the substance was different. Because rather than mount a defense of officer Slager — who repeatedly claimed that he shot Scott only after a routine stop over a busted taillight led to physical altercation, one during which he feared for his life — Driggers buried him instead. “I have watched the video and I was sickened by what I saw,” he said. “And I have not watched it since.”

What a difference a smartphone can make. As Judd Legum of Think Progress has noted, if not for the remarkably brave Santana, who used his smartphone to record the final moments of Scott’s life, the only version of the story the world would know is the version Slager told. Which, in plain language, was a monstrous lie. There’s no evidence that Scott tried to use Slager’s taser against him, as the officer claimed; the only reason it was found near the dead man’s body, it appears, is because that’s where Slager put it. And contrary to what Slager said in the official incident report, he never feared for his personal safety; as he pumps Scott’s back full of bullets he is calm, cool and collected.

According to the work of one local reporter, Slager’s neighbors didn’t suspect him of being especially malevolent or inclined toward violence. To them, he seemed normal — even nice. Driggers responded with a similar mix of sadness and bewilderment. “I want to believe in my heart of hearts that it was a tragic set of events after a traffic stop,” Driggers said on CNN. “I always look for the good in folks,” he continued, “and so I would hope that nobody would ever do something like that.” Keith Summey, the town’s mayor, was also fatalistic: “When you’re wrong, you’re wrong,” he told the press. “And if you make a bad decision … you have to live by that decision.”

Neither man was interested in damning Slager; and considering he is now facing charges for murder, that’s probably for the best. But both men went further than simply biting their tongues; they made a point of distancing Slager’s behavior from that of the overall North Charleston police force, too. “The one does not totally throw a blanket across the many,” Driggers said, according to the Los Angeles Times. The mayor and he noted that the NCPD is composed of more than 340 officers. The video traveling all over the world was hideous, no doubt. But it told us nothing of the overall law enforcement system; it was merely a single man making a horrible, horrible mistake.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, because Slager is not the only officer seen in the video. After Scott had fallen to the ground, prostrate and bleeding, and after Slager had barked at him to put his hands behind his back (so he could handcuff him before he lost the ability to move his arms), officer Clarence Habersham, who is African-American, arrives at the scene. His body language, like Scott’s, indicates this was not the first time he’d come upon such a scene. He seems unperturbed as he kneels down to check Scott’s pulse. He makes no real attempt to save the back-shot man’s life. And that’s understandable, really; Scott was likely already dead.

We don’t know yet what exactly transpired between Slager, Habersham, or the third, Caucasian one who joins them later. We don’t know how much they knew, and we don’t know when they knew it. What we do know, though, is plenty. We know that the police department of North Charleston was content to treat Slager’s story as fact; and we know that this was not the first time a member of the force had engaged in acts that we’d otherwise describe as thuggery. We know that in the past five years, police officers in South Carolina have used their guns against 209 human beings; and we know that they were exonerated of wrongdoing every single time.

Lastly, we know that Walter Scott — a father, brother, cousin and veteran; a man who loved to joke and loved to dance, and who was known as the extrovert of his family — died after being shot multiple times when his back was turned. And we know that if he lived long enough to be conscious as Slager tightened the cuffs around each of his wrists, he spent his final moments on this Earth alone, and enchained.

 

By: Elias Isquith, Salon, April 9, 2015

April 12, 2015 Posted by | Michael Thomas Slager, Police Abuse, Walter Scott | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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