South Carolina officer Michael Slager says he shot Walter Scott "as I was trained to do"


Michael Slager, the former North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer, testified Tuesday during his murder trial that shooting an unarmed black man in 2015 was in accordance with his use of force training.

The 35-year-old Slager took the stand to testify in his own defense over the April 4, 2015, shooting death of Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man who fled on foot during a traffic stop, the Associated Press reported.

"At that point I pulled my firearm and pulled the trigger, I fired until the threat was stopped as I was trained to do," Slager said, choking back tears at one point during his testimony, according the AP.

Authorities say the former North Charleston police officer fatally shot Scott five times in the back, as the man attempted to flee a confrontation with Slager. The incident, partially captured on a bystander's smartphone, sent shockwaves across the nation, amid ongoing protests against police brutality by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Grace Beahm/AP

Slager was fired from the force in April, after state authorities charged him with murder. He is also charged with a civil rights violation in federal court.

On Tuesday, Slager told jurors that he "was scared" and in "total fear" when, after pulling Scott over for a broken taillight, the man refused to obey his orders to stop resisting arrest. Slager said Scott gained control of his stun gun during a scuffle between the two men, which was not caught on video.

The bystander's footage showed Scott, who was unarmed, was at least 18 feet away from Slager before the officer opened fire. The video also shows the moment when Slager is walking back to the spot where the stun gun that he claimed Scott wrestled from him was dropped, picking it up and placing it near Scott's body.

Asked if he intended to plant evidence to support his story about the stun gun, Slager told the court no. 

"I must have dropped it by Mr. Scott's body. I don't remember doing that," the former officer said, according to the AP. "A lot of this is fuzzy in my mind," he later added.

The trial is expected to wrap up by week's end, when the jury begins deliberating a verdict.