clock menu more-arrow no yes

Walter Scott's father explains why it's so important to film police

The father of Walter Scott, a seemingly unarmed black 50-year-old who was fatally shot by a South Carolina police officer on Saturday, told Today's Matt Lauer that his son's death would have been swept under the rug if an anonymous bystander hadn't recorded the incident and turned over the footage to authorities.

"It would have never come to light. They would have swept it under the rug, like they did with many others," Walter Scott Sr. said. "When I saw it, I fell to my feet, and my heart was broken. I said, 'Oh no, it can't be.' When I saw it, I just couldn't take it anymore."

Michael Slager, the white officer who shot Scott, was charged and arrested for murder on Tuesday.

Slager claimed Scott had attempted to take his stun gun and use it on him during a struggle before he opened fire. Video taken by an anonymous bystander, however, shows Scott fleeing as Slager fired at least eight times at the man's back. It's unclear in the video whether Scott ever had control of the stun gun.

The footage demonstrates why many police reform advocates see video, particularly from police-worn body cameras, as a vital tool for evidence. Very often, these shootings come down to conflicting accounts from a police officer, whom the general public often views as trustworthy, versus eyewitnesses and victims of police use of force. Video evidence gives an opportunity to clear up who, exactly, is telling the truth — and in the case of Scott, it's been widely credited with leading to charges against Slager.

"Without the video … it would be difficult for us to ascertain exactly what did occur," North Charleston Mayor R. Keith Summey said during a news conference, according to the Post and Courier. "We want to thank the young person who came forward ... because it has helped us resolve the issue."

Watch: Why filming the police is so important

Further reading

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for The Weeds

Get our essential policy newsletter delivered Fridays.