The family of Walter Scott, a father of four who was shot dead by former North Charleston police officer Michael T. Slager, expressed relief on Monday after news broke that the ex-lawman had been formally indicted for murder.
A South Carolina grand jury indicted Slager, 33, in the April 4 death of Scott. Chris Stewart, the Scott family's attorney, said Monday that they plan to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of North Charleston and the local police force.
"Today was just an example of if you keep the faith, even in the darkest times, you will see the light," Stewart said at a press conference. "We are going to patiently wait for the criminal trial in this case and we are going to patiently wait to see if the city, the police department and the chief are going to take responsibility in the civil suit."
Although a trial date has not yet been set, if Slager is convicted of Scott's murder he could be sentenced to life in prison.
"The jury will make up its own mind after it sees the video and hears the other testimony," prosecutor Scarlett Wilson said.
On April 4, 50-year-old Scott was shot in the back at least six times as he ran away from Slager during a routine traffic stop. The incident was captured on cell phone video by a bystander, shared on social media and quickly went viral. Slager claimed that he feared for his life in shooting Scott, who fled the scene and had warrants out for his arrest. As Scott ran, Slager is said to have shot at him eight times, forcing the veteran Coast Guard to stumble to the ground head first.
An attorney for Slager, who has been behind bars without bond since his April 7 arrest, declined to comment on the former police officer's indictment.
"Until we have an opportunity to fully evaluate the state's case and to compare it with our own investigation we will not be commenting on any aspect of the case," Attorney Andy Savage said in a statement shared with The Christian Post.
Feidin Santana, the bystander who shot the cell phone video of the shooting, credited God for placing him in the right place at the right time.
"God put me there for a reason. I'm a very believer in God," Santana said during an emotional meeting with the Scott family.
North Charleston is the third largest city in South Carolina with a population of more than 104,000, according to 2013 data from the Census Bureau.
More than 47 percent of the population is black while 41 percent is white, according to 2010 data. Less than 20 percent of the police department's 340 officers are black.
The case comes amid ongoing racial unrest across the nation stemming from fatal encounters involving white police officers and African American males. Other high profile cases include the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in Staten Island in 2014.
Last month, six Baltimore police officers were indicted on charges in the death of Freddie Gray, who also died in April after being gravely injured while in police custody.