The bystander who shot video apparently showing a white police officer fatally shooting an unarmed black man said he knew right away the profound significance of the chilling footage he’d recorded.
“As you can see in the video, the police officer just shot him in the back,” said Feidin Santana, who used his mobile phone to film the dramatic and tragic encounter.
“I knew right away, I had something on my hands,” he told NBC.
As a result of the recording, which in just 24 hours has been seen around the world, the police officer, 33-year-old Michael Slager, was charged with murder on Tuesday and could face a sentence of up to life in prison or the death penalty.
Slager stands accused of shooting Walter Scott, 50, repeatedly in the back after stopping him for driving a Mercedes Benz with a broken brake light in North Charleston, South Carolina.
Santana said that after filming the incident, he immediately became fearful of his own safety.
“I felt that my life, with this information, might be in danger. I thought about erasing the video and just getting out of the community, you know Charleston, and living some place else,” the 23-year old said in a separate interview with MSNBC. “I knew the cop didn’t do the right thing.”
In the video, Slager is seen firing fires eight times at Scott, who has turned and run from him. Slager then handcuffs the dying man. Santana, however, saw what the video didn’t capture.
“Before I started recording, they were down on the floor. I remember the police (officer) had control of the situation,” he said.
“He had control of Scott. And Scott was trying just to get away from the Taser (stun gun). But like I said, he never used the Taser against the cop.”
Santana initially showed the video to Scott’s brother, Anthony at a vigil and later sent it to South Carolina newspaper, The Post and Courier. “What if there was no video?” Slager’s family attorney Justin Bamberg wondered during a news conference.
Santana, a barber from the Dominican Republic, immigrated to the US.
Several killings of unarmed black men by police officers in recent months have sparked sometimes violent protests across the United States, with demonstrators alleging racism in the nation’s police departments.
Officers have rarely been charged in the shootings, however — even when the incidents were recorded. Slager, on the other hand, has been charged with murder.
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