Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Police shooting video again raises difficult questions

I'm not going to post the video here -- it is available in multiple places for those who wish to watch it. But the screengrab above captures the tragedy of it. Fifty-year-old Walter Scott, pulled over for a broken taillight on Saturday, is shot five times in the back by a North Charleston, S.C. policeman who later claimed that he had fired only because he felt that his life was in danger. That was the police department story until the video above, taken by a passerby, was given to the media.

Police officials also initially described efforts to revive Scott through CPR. The video again tells a very different story. After the shooting, Scott's body is handcuffed, but officers make no effort to assist or revive him. The video also captures the officer, Michael Slager, 33, apparently rearranging the crime scene by dropping an item next to Scott's body.

You have to wonder how many times such things have played out in the past without a video to document what really happened -- certainly, we've already seen too many such videos. You also have to wonder what would have happened in this particular case without visual evidence of what happened. I would like to think that a thorough forensics investigation would have proved that Scott had been shot in the back, multiple times, from a distance at which the officer's life could not possibly have been in danger. I would like to think that. I'm not sure that I do.

In any event, Slager has now been charged with murder in the case. "We don't advocate violence," Scott's brother said in a family press conference after the video's release. "We advocate change."

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.