CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A lawyer for the family of a black motorist shot to death by a white South Carolina police officer says justice has been done with the fired officer’s guilty plea. But attorney Chris Stewart also said Tuesday that verdicts are rare in officer-involved killings.
Prosecutors are recommending that Michael Slager serve decades in prison for violating the civil rights of Walter Scott by shooting him in the back as he fled, a crime captured on cellphone video and seen worldwide. The possibility of such a stiff sentence in killings by police is even more unusual.
Here is an update on some other high-profile killings by police:
Sterling, 37, was shot to death July 5, 2016, as two white officers pinned him to the pavement outside a Louisiana convenience store where he had been selling CDs. The killing was captured on cellphone video and circulated widely online, sparking demonstrations across Baton Rouge. Officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II were placed on administrative leave. Neither office has been charged. The U.S. Justice Department decided not to charge the two officers, The Associated Press has learned. A person familiar with the decision disclosed it to the AP on Tuesday. The person was not authorized to talk publicly about the decision and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. Federal authorities opened a civil rights investigation immediately after the shooting. The Justice Department’s decision doesn’t preclude state authorities from conducting their own investigation and pursuing their own criminal charges.
This black 15-year-old was fatally shot on Saturday by a suburban Dallas police officer while a passenger in a car that was moving away, not in reverse toward officers. Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber said Monday that police video contradicts his department’s original statement about the high school freshman’s killing by officers investigating an underage drinking complaint at a house party Edwards was leaving. The chief wouldn’t identify the officer nor describe his race. The officer is on leave while police investigate, but the boy’s family wants him fired and criminally charged, their lawyer said.
Tulsa, Oklahoma, police Officer Betty Jo Shelby’s manslaughter trial begins Monday in the shooting of Crutcher, an unarmed man. Shelby, who is white, shot the 40-year-old man on Sept. 16, shortly after she arrived on a street to find Crutcher’s SUV stopped in the middle of the road. Crutcher was seen without a weapon and with his hands up on videos from a patrol car dashboard and a police helicopter before Shelby shot him. Police Chief Chuck Jordan has said that Crutcher did not have a gun on his body nor in his SUV. Shelby has pleaded not guilty.
Castile was shot and killed July 6 by officer Jeronimo Yanez, who is Hispanic, after being pulled over as he drove through a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota, with his girlfriend and her young daughter in the car. Livestreaming on Facebook moments later, his girlfriend said Castile, 32, was shot while reaching for his ID after telling the officer he had a gun permit and was armed. Ramsey County Attorney John Choi concluded that Yanez wasn’t justified in using deadly force. Yanez is charged with manslaughter and is free ahead of his trial scheduled to start later this month.
Chicago police officer Dante Servin resigned in May 2016 after the police superintendent said he should be fired for killing an unarmed black woman four years earlier. Servin was off-duty when he shot 22-year-old Rekia Boyd. She had been walking down a street with her friends when he told them to be quiet, and he fired when he thought he saw a gun. Prosecutors charged Servin with involuntary manslaughter, a judge acquitted him in April 2016, saying he’d been improperly charged. The city settled a wrongful-death lawsuit in 2013 with Boyd’s family for $4.5 million.
The 43-year-old black man died in July 2014 in New York City after a white officer placed him in a chokehold during an arrest for selling loose cigarettes. A grand jury declined to indict that officer, nor any others involved in the arrest. The city agreed to pay a $6 million civil settlement.
The 18-year-old black man was fatally shot by a white officer, Darren Wilson, in August 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. A grand jury declined to indict Wilson, and the U.S. Justice Department opted against civil rights charges. Wilson later resigned. The death of Brown, who was unarmed, led to months of occasionally violent protests and became a catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement, which rebukes police treatment of minorities.
Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in November 2015, on the same day that the city, under a judge’s orders, released dashcam video showing McDonald, a 17-year-old black man, being shot 16 times on Oct. 20, 2014. Van Dyke, who is white, has pleaded not guilty. The video prompted local and federal investigations; The Justice Department determined in January that Chicago police have a long history of civil rights violations and excessive force.
Rookie New York City police officer Peter Liang was convicted of manslaughter last year in the November 2014 death of 28-year-old Gurley. Liang, an American of Chinese descent, said he was patrolling a public housing high-rise with his gun drawn when a sound startled him and he fired accidentally. A bullet ricocheted off a wall, hitting Gurley. A judge reduced the conviction to negligent homicide and sentenced Liang to five years’ probation and 800 hours of community service. The city settled with Gurley’s family for $4.1 million.
Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was fatally shot by a white Cleveland police officer near a gazebo in a recreational area in November 2014. Officers were responding to a report of a man waving a gun. The boy had a pellet gun tucked in his waistband and was shot right after their cruiser skidded to a stop, just feet away. A grand jury in December 2015 declined to indict patrolman Timothy Loehmann, who fired the fatal shot, and training officer Frank Garmback. The city settled his family’s lawsuit for $6 million. The officers still could be disciplined or fired by the department.
The 25-year-old man was shackled but alive when he was put in Baltimore police van in April 2015. He came out with severe neck injuries, and his subsequent death led to rioting. Six officers were charged initially, but prosecutors in July dropped all remaining charges after acquittals and a hung jury. Gray’s family agreed to a $6.4 million settlement with the city in September 2015.
Former Tulsa County volunteer sheriff’s deputy Robert Bates, 74, was sentenced in June to four years in prison for second-degree manslaughter in the April 2015 death of Harris, 44, a black man who was unarmed and restrained. Bates, who is white, has said he confused his stun gun with his handgun. That shooting led to the temporary suspension of the reserve deputy program after a report found poor training of the volunteer officers, a lack of oversight, and cronyism. Bates is appealing his conviction.
WILLIAM CHAPMAN II
Former Portsmouth, Virginia, Police Officer Stephen Rankin was sentenced in October to 2½ years in prison for fatally shooting this unarmed 18-year-old while responding to a shoplifting call outside a Wal-Mart on April 22, 2015. Prosecutors allege Rankin killed Chapman “willfully, deliberately and with premeditation.” Chapman’s body was reportedly delivered to the medical examiner with handcuffs still bound behind his back. Some witnesses said Chapman was combative, and one said he knocked away Rankin’s stun gun. Rankin, who is white, was fired.
Prosecutors plan to retry former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing this month in the killing of an unarmed black motorist during a traffic stop near the campus in July 2015. The jury deadlocked after his first murder trial. He faces 15 years to life if convicted. Tensing’s body camera captured much of the encounter, although the two sides dispute what conclusions can be reached. Tensing’s attorney says DuBose was using his car as a deadly weapon. The university fired Tensing, restructured its public safety department and reached a $5.3 million settlement that includes free undergraduate tuition for DuBose’s 13 children.
McDole, 28, was sitting in his wheelchair when he was shot and killed in September 2015 in Wilmington, Delaware, after police received a 911 call about a man with a gun. A bystander’s cellphone footage showed officers repeatedly telling McDole to drop his weapon and raise his hands, with McDole reaching for his waist area before shots erupted. The Delaware attorney general’s office decided against criminal charges against four Wilmington police officers involved, although investigators concluded one officer showed “extraordinarily poor” police work. In January, a federal judge approved the city’s $1.5 million settlement with McDole’s family.
Former Columbus, Mississippi, police officer Canyon Boykin, who is white, was indicted in September for manslaughter in the shooting death of Ball, 26. Boykin said he fired because Ball appeared to point a gun at him during a foot chase in October 2015. The city fired Boykin, saying the officer violated policy by not turning on his body camera, by inviting his fiancee to ride with him and by making derogatory social media posts about African-Americans, women and disabled people. Boykin has sued the city, claiming violations of his constitutional rights. Ball’s family has sued Boykin, the city and other police officials for wrongful death.
The November 2015 shooting death of 24-year-old Clark sparked weeks of protests in Minneapolis. The officers, Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, were trying to arrest Clark when he was shot once in the head. He died a day later. Some witnesses said Clark was handcuffed when he was shot, but federal and state probes concluded that he was not. Investigators said Ringgenberg felt Clark’s hand trying to grab his weapon and shouted to Schwarze, who then shot Clark. Prosecutors decided not to charge either white officer, and an internal police investigation cleared them.
KEITH LAMONT SCOTT
A prosecutor cleared a black Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer in the fatal shooting of Scott, 43, who was killed while sitting in his vehicle in the parking lot of his Charlotte apartment complex as officers sought another man. A police review board decided last month that Officer Brentley Vinson followed proper procedure. Police video showed officers shouting for Scott to drop a gun numerous times as he slowly backed out of an SUV. Scott’s family said he did not have a gun and was reading a book. Charlotte-Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray cited evidence that Scott was armed, including a store’s surveillance video, DNA recovered from a handgun and a Facebook conversation from the man who said he sold the stolen gun to Scott.
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