Former South Carolina cop committed murder in motorist's death - judge

CHARLESTON, S.C., Dec 7 (Reuters) - A white former South Carolina police officer who pleaded guilty to violating an unarmed black motorist's civil rights in a 2015 fatal shooting committed second-degree murder, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.

U.S. District Judge David Norton said former North Charleston patrolman Michael Slager also obstructed justice by lying to investigators three days after he shot and killed 50-year-old Walter Scott.

Norton did not immediately sentence Slager, 36, who could face up to life in prison.

"No matter what sentence I give, neither the Scott family nor Slager family is going to like it or think it’s right," the judge said.

Prosecutors have argued at Slager's sentencing hearing in Charleston this week that the April 2015 shooting was calculated. The defense said the patrolman had felt threatened after Scott tried to take his stun gun during a struggle.

Slager had pulled Scott over for a broken brake light. After Scott ran from the traffic stop, Slager shot him from behind eight times, hitting him five times.

A bystander caught the shooting on cellphone video that went viral, renewing concerns about U.S. police shootings of unarmed black men.

A state murder trial ended last December with a hung jury, and state prosecutors dropped the murder case in exchange for the plea on the federal charge.

In court on Thursday, members of Scott's family spoke to Slager, who has been in jail since his guilty plea in May.

"I forgive you," Judy Scott said to her son's killer. "Forgiveness is in my heart." (Reporting by Greg Lacour; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

12/07/2017 11:13

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