Michael Slager, a white officer in SC, was filmed shooting 50-year-old Walter Scott as he fled after Slager stopped him for having a broken brake light in April 2015.
U.S. District Judge David Norton said earlier that the shooting was second-degree murder and he would use a sentencing guideline range of about 19 to 24 years when he decides Slager's fate.
"I forgive you", Scott's mother, Judy, said as she turned toward her son's killer.
Slager's defense team had argued in court that the officer believed Scott had seized his police-issue stun gun during the scuffle, but the judge ultimately ruled Thursday that Slager had acted with malice and "willful intent to provide false testimony", the BBC reports. "I said you know how the North Charleston police does, seemed like they just picked at you for any reason".
"I think it must be something else to why they would not release that", Anthony Scott said while walking back to his hotel after the sentencing.
Ex-North Charleston officer Michael Slager testified Thursday before he was sentenced to 20 years for violating the civil rights of Walter Scott. But after the shooting, the Scott family successfully pleaded for calm, asking everyone to let the justice system run its course. The officer fired eight shots as Scott ran away, five of which hit Scott. Slager pled guilty to the federal charge of violating Scott's civil rights in May as part of a plea deal that got him off the hook for state murder charges, which were to be re-issued after his 2016 state murder trial ended in a hung jury. They said race didn't play a role in the shooting and Slager never had any "racial animus" toward minorities. A cell phone video that explicitly shows Scott being shot from behind while defenseless went viral and provided new and essential evidence in the case, negating Slager's self-defense claims.
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The death of Walter Scott in April 2015 was one of the most shocking in a series of high-profile USA police shootings, often involving minorities, that have deepened tensions and added to distrust between officers and the communities they serve. "I'm not angry at you, Michael", he said in court. Slager contends he was securing the weapon.
Norton also said Slager obstructed justice when he made statements to state police after the shooting. Clutching a photograph of his father, Miles Scott said he has had trouble sleeping ever since his father's death.
"Your honor, I miss my dad so much I can't sleep at night", he said. "At the end of the day, God had a ram in the bush, and his name was [Feidin] Santana, who was fearless enough to film this horrendous act that was done to my brother". Now, Slager will serve 20 years in jail, as announced Thursday. But the judge was not bound by that decision.
In 2017 thus far there have been 909 deadly shootings by police.
A federal judge has ruled that a former SC officer committed second-degree murder when he shot an unarmed black motorist to death. Groubert was sentenced to five years behind bars.