NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Rev. Al Sharpton led a vigil in North Charleston Sunday for Walter Scott, the black driver who was fatally shot by a white police officer after he fled a traffic stop.
The vigil was held in the grassy, fenced-in area where Scott, 50, was fatally shot after fleeing a traffic stop April 4.
Sharpton, the founder of New York-based civil rights group National Action Network, also delivered a sermon at Charity Missionary Baptist Church ahead of the vigil.
“We are saying for the sake of this family in Charleston, that not only are we with you, we are saying that there must be national legislation around cameras and police accountability,” Sharpton said at an event in New York on Wednesday.
Former officer Michael Slager initially said he fired after a tussle over his department-issued Taser. Dramatic witness video showed that Slager fired eight times as Scott ran away. Slager was fired and has been charged with murder.
Scott was a father of four and Coast Guard veteran whose death sparked outrage as another instance of a white law enforcement officer fatally shooting an unarmed black man under questionable circumstances.
Scott was driving a 1991 Mercedes that he bought from a neighbor and was headed to an auto parts store when he was stopped, his brother Rodney Scott said.
Police said he had a broken tail light. Video from the police car’s dashboard camera shows Slager asking Scott for his license and registration, then heading back to his cruiser before Scott gets out of the car and runs.
Scott’s relatives have said they suspect he fled Slager out of fear of being jailed again over missed child support payments.
At the time he was stopped, Scott, who worked as a warehouse forklift operator, owed more than $18,000 in child support and court fees, according to Charleston County records.
About 450 people including U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., the two black members of South Carolina’s congressional delegation, gathered in the sanctuary of W.O.R.D. Ministries Christian Center — the church where Scott had worshipped — for his funeral on Saturday.
Clyburn said he hoped some good could come from the tragedy.
“I think this is a catalyst to get people to face up to the fact that we’ve got problems in this country,” he said. “I think this exposed something that is already there.” Clyburn also said there need to be minimum standards, perhaps national standards, for evaluating law officers.
“All of us have seen the video,” Rev. George Hamilton, the minister at W.O.R.D. Ministries, told an overflow congregation. “There is no doubt in my mind and I feel that Walter’s death was motivated by racial prejudice.”
Authorities have not said whether race was a factor in the shooting.
“We will not indict the entire law enforcement community for the act of one racist,” the minister said.
After the funeral, Scott family attorney Chris Stewart said the pain behind this shooting would have hurt a family of any background.
“The epidemic of powerless people being taken advantage of no matter what color, no matter what gender, no matter what belief system you have, needs to stop,” he said.
“We’re not going to let this case boil down to just racial issues because it’s bigger than that,” Stewart said. “It’s a human issue.”
About 200 additional people waited outside during Scott’s funeral beneath the portico of the church or under umbrellas in the rain because the sanctuary had reached capacity.
Those who waited outside were able to enter at the end of the service and file by Scott’s open casket — covered in an American flag and surrounded with sprays of flowers.
Those who knew Scott remembered him as lighthearted and gentle. They describe a laid-back, fun-loving man who took his girlfriend dancing on weekends.
Scott had been married twice, and proposed to his girlfriend Charlotte Jones about a week before he was killed.
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