In early April 2015, Michael Slager, then a part of the North Charleston Police Department, shot 50-year-old Walter Scott in the back eight times as he fled his Mercedes after a traffic stop. A bystander filmed the incident with a cell phone.
In a statement, Slager’s lawyer, Andrew J. Savage III, said, "We hope that Michael’s acceptance of responsibility will help the Scott family as they continue to grieve their loss."
Last year, Slager, who is white, expressed remorse over the incident, saying in court that, "My family has been destroyed by it. The Scott family has been destroyed by it. It's horrible."
As part of the plea deal, the state of South Carolina cannot file new charges against Slager, whose murder trial ended in a hung jury last December.
Black Lives Matter protests erupted in response to Scott’s death, which was seen as part of a persistent pattern of police killing black Americans. Charleston activists called for the mayor’s resignation and demanded citizen oversight of policing.
Muhiyidin D'Baha from the Charleston chapter of Black Lives Matter told Vice News at the time, "Right now, our number one demand is the creation and implementation of a Citizen Review Board to authoritatively deal with police misconduct allegations and weigh in on methodology of police recruitment, training, deployment, advancement and accountability."
"The defendant willfully used deadly force even though it was objectively unreasonable under the circumstances," said the Justice Department, while Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a statement of his own saying the DOJ would "hold accountable any law enforcement officer who violates the civil rights of our citizens by using excessive force.
As our Department works to support the courageous and professional law enforcement personnel who risk their lives every day to protect us, we will also ensure that police officers who abuse their sacred trust are made to answer for their misconduct."
Outside the courtroom, Scott’s mother, Judy, said, "God never fails."
Attorney Chris Stewart, who helped the Scott family win a $6.5 million settlement with the city, said, "We know what justice truly looks like. It doesn't look like a big settlement check. It looks like today."