Friday, April 10, 2015

Killer cop’s history of 'excessive force' revealed - as questions pile up over how many colleagues helped him cover up fatally shooting unarmed father in the back

The white South Carolina police officer charged with murder for shooting an unarmed black man in the back was allowed to stay on the force despite a previous complaint about excessive force, it has been revealed.

The previous incident

North Charleston resident Mario Givens says Officer Michael Slager burst into his home and then Tasered him in the stomach, even though he was not resisting in September 2013.

The revelation adds to growing questions about the conduct of the North Charleston police force, and how Officer Slager was able to escape probing questions from his colleagues after he fatally shot unarmed Walter Scott in the back as he fled last week.

Yesterday local authorities refused to say whether other police officers will be charged over the shooting of Scott. Seven other officers arrived at the scene immediately after the shooting.

Now Givens has come forward to recount how he was awakened before dawn one morning in September 2013 by loud banging on the front door of his family's North Charleston home.

On his front porch was Patrolman Michael Thomas Slager.

Givens, who is also black, said he cracked open his door and asked the officer what he wanted. At the time, Givens was clad only in a T-shirt and boxer shorts, he recalled.

'He said he wanted to come in, but didn't say why,' said Givens, now 33. 'He never said who he was looking for.' Then, without warning, Slager pushed in the door, he said.

"Come outside or I'll tase you," he recalled the officer saying as he burst in. 'I didn't want that to happen to me, so I raised my arms over my head, and when I did, he tased me in my stomach anyway.'

He said the pain from the stun gun was so intense that he dropped to the floor and began calling for his mother, who was also in the home.

At that point, he said another police officer came into the house and they dragged him outside and threw him to the ground. He was handcuffed and put in the back of a squad car.

Though initially accused of resisting the officers, Givens was later released without charge.

'It was very devastating,' said Bessie Givens, 57, who was awaked by her son's piercing screams.

'You watch your son like that, he's so vulnerable. You don't know what's going to happen. I was so scared.'

After Officer Michael Slager was charged with murder on Tuesday and terminated from the North Charleston Police on Wednesday, the department released his personnel file.

Also included in the document dump was the judgments on complaints lodged against Officer Slager.

One complaint, filed in 2013 by Mario Givens, revealed that he had a violaton in code of conduct sustained but was exonerated for use of force.

The report stated that Slager and another officer 'got into a struggle' with the suspect and 'Slager was forced to use his Taser then drive stun to gain compliance'.

Givens said that he had been tased for no reason after exiting the home when the officers asked.

It turned out that the police officers had gone to the family's home at the behest of his brother's ex-girlfriend, who earlier reported awakening in her nearby house to find Matthew Givens in her bedroom, uninvited. She said he left when she began screaming, and she dialed 911.

That woman, Maleah Kiara Brown, said on Wednesday that she and a friend had followed the police officers over to the Givens home and were sitting outside as Slager knocked on the door. The second officer had gone around to the back of the house.

She had provided the officers with a detailed description of Matthew Givens, who is about 5 feet, 5 inches tall. Mario Givens stands well over 6 feet.

'He looked nothing like the description I gave the officers,' Brown said, referring to Mario Givens.

'He asked the officer why he was at the house. He did it nicely. The police officer said he wanted him to step outside. Then he asked, "Why, why do you want me to step outside?" Then the officer barged inside and grabbed him.'

Moments later, she saw the police officers drag Givens out of the house and throw him in the dirt. Brown said she kept yelling to the officers they had the wrong man, but they wouldn't listen. Though Givens was offering no resistance, she said she saw Slager use the stun gun on him again.

'He was screaming, in pain,' she said. 'He said, "You tased me. You tased me. Why?" It was awful. Terrible. I asked the officer why he tased him and he told me to get back.'

She said she later told a female police supervisor what she had seen. 'He was cocky,' she said of Slager. 'It looked like he wanted to hurt him. There was no need to tase him. No reason. He was no threat — and we told him he had the wrong man.'

Angered by what happened, Mario Givens went downtown to police headquarters the following day and filed a formal complaint. He and his mother say several neighbors who witnessed what happened on the family's front lawn also contacted the police, though they say officers refused to take their statements.

The incident report from that night filed by Slager and the other officer, Maurice Huggins, provides a very different version of events. In the report, obtained by the AP through a public records request, Slager wrote that he could not see one of Givens' hands and feared he might be holding a weapon.

He wrote that he observed sweat on Givens' shirt, which he perceived as evidence he may have just run from Brown's home, and then ordered him to exit several times.

When Givens didn't comply, Slager said he entered the home to prevent him from fleeing, and was then forced to use his stun gun when Givens struggled against him. According to the officers' report, the two Givens brothers are described as looking 'just alike.'

Back to the recent incident

Police officer Michael Slager said in a statement earlier this week that his encounter with Walter Scott began at around 9.30am on Saturday.

He said he pulled Scott's Mercedes over as a routine traffic stop for a broken brake light.

He said Scott then ran away into a vacant grassy lot where, at some point during the chase, the victim confronts Slager.

The officer then tried to use his Taser to subdue Scott, but claims the suspect grabbed the stun gun during the struggle, according to the statement.

According to police reports, Slager fired the stun gun, but it did not stop Scott.

At that point, the officer fired at Scott several times because he 'felt threatened,' Slager's statement said.

He added that his actions were in line with procedure.

Police then said Slager reported on his radio moments after the struggle: 'Shots fired and the subject is down. He took my Taser.'

Slager's account has been called into question after the video appears to show him shooting Scott in the back.

The footage begins in the vacant lot apparently moments after Slager fires his Taser. Wires which administer the electrical current appear to be extending from Scott's body.

As Scott turns to run, Slager draws his pistol and, only when he is 15 to 20 feet away, starts to fire the first of the eight shots at his back.

The video shows Slager handcuffing Scott's lifeless body.

Footage then appears to show Slager jogging back to the point where the Taser fell to the ground, bringing it over to Scott's body around 30 feet away and dropping it next to him.

It is only after two-and-a-half minutes that Slager is seen placing his hand on Scott's neck in an apparent attempt to check his pulse.

A black colleague then arrives and puts on blue medical gloves before handling the body, but is not seen performing first aid.

They are joined by a third officer, who also does not appear to tend to the victim.

Original report here

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