World Bulletin / News Desk
A white former South Carolina police officer was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison for fatally shooting an unarmed black motorist.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge David Norton said Michael Slager committed second-degree murder and obstruction of justice when he fatally shot Walter Scott during a routine traffic stop in 2015.
"Slager shot Scott five times in the back for running away, simply for having a broken taillight," Jared Fishman of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division told in the court before the sentence was handed down.
"It is time to call it what it was, a murder," Fishman added
Slager pleaded not guilty at his first trial and claimed he was forced to open fire after Scott came toward him with a stun gun. The case ended in a mistrial in 2016.
But Slager pleaded guilty to violating Scott's civil rights in federal court in May after stunning video footage captured by a bystander showed Scott running away from Slager when he was shot.
“Michael Slager admitted what he did,” Judy Scott, the victim’s mother, said outside the courthouse after the plea hearing in May. “That was enough years for me, because no matter how many years Michael Slager gets, it would not bring back my son.”
The video, viewed millions of times online, was widely condemned and led to calls for accountability, resulting in Slager's dismissal from the police force and his subsequent indictment.
Scott's family later reached a $6.5 million settlement with the city of North Charleston.
The judge's ruling Thursday followed several days of testimony including from Feiden Santana, the witness who filmed the shooting, and Scott’s mother, who broke down in tears before the sentence was announced.
"If you met him, you would like him," she said. "I didn't know anyone who didn't like him."
She said she forgive Slager -- a fleeing echoed by Walter Scott's brother, Anthony.
"I miss my brother, and our family will never be the same," he said. "Until I got the help I needed, it helped me to release the pain of losing my brother. God gave forgiveness in my heart for Officer Slager.
"I'm not angry at you, Michael," he added. "I forgive you, and Michael, I pray for you now."
Slager's sentence concluded one of the few cases in which a police officer has been prosecuted for an on-duty shooting.
Scott’s death was among a number of killings that has provoked nationwide debate about law enforcement’s use of lethal force, particularly in cases involving black males.
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