The Murder of Walter Scott
By Michael Slate
They’ve done it again. And I’ve watched the video over and over and over again until my face is wet with tears and my head is pounding in anger. How the fuck do you wrap your head around this? I watch as a Black man, Walter Scott, is executed because he was stopped by a cop for driving a car with a bad brake light. He argues with the cop for a minute and runs across a field in South Carolina, his arms moving like he’s jogging. He’s running away from a cop, a predator, who watches Walter run away from him and calmly raises his arm and takes aim before firing off 8 bullets. He stands there shooting like he was shooting at mechanical ducks in a carnival. Walter runs away, his back to the beast. Five bullets slam into his body, three rip open his back, one sinks deep into his buttocks and another hits his ear. Walter Scott, who once had his picture taken in his Coast Guard uniform, Walter Scott, a man in his 50’s who liked music and singing and the Dallas Cowboys, fell to his knees for an instant before his face hit the ground. Walter’s warm blood was leaking out of his body as his killer surveyed his prey and then walked up and handcuffed Walter Scott’s hands behind his back. And then this cop, this homicidal pig, nonchalantly walked back to where he started shooting at Walter, bent down, picked something small and black up off of the ground and then walked back to Walter’s body where he dropped it nearby. Was it his Taser? The same Taser he said Walter Scott had stolen from him.
We know how it goes. Was the cop getting his ducks in a row? Was he getting his story straight? And then the cop told his story. We all know how it goes. An angry Black man started a scuffle after being pulled over for a bad brake light. The angry Black man stole the cop’s Taser and the cop feared for his life. The angry Black man ran away from the cop and the cop feared for his life. The angry Black man kept running away and the cop shot him down. The angry Black man faltered, fell to his knees and then face down onto the ground. Did the pig smirk as he looked at Walter’s lifeless body and watched his blood turn the dirt into mud. Did he breathe a sigh of relief, confidant that no one would question his right to kill an angry Black man who made him fear for his life.
“Oh Shit, Oh Shit, Shit” – 5 words that changed everything. See, there was a guy standing behind the trees and he had a cell phone. And he filmed what went down from beginning to end. As the cop started shooting at Walter the cell phone videographer knew what he had was important and he kept on filming to the very end, capturing the initial confrontation, the murder and the cop picking up something small and black placing it near Walter’s dead body. When it was all over he brought the video to Walter’s family.
Walter’s father watched the video. Was there a moment when seeing the video of Walter running reminded him of one happy day when Walter ran like the wind and carried a football across a goal line, only to see his son shot down “like a deer” seconds later. Walter’s mom said watching the video “tore her heart to pieces.” Was there a moment before she saw Walter fall down dead that she remembered wiping away the tears of a five year old boy as she rubbed his aching legs at night telling him that it was just “growing pains”. Did her heart crack into a thousand pieces as she realized that Walter wouldn’t be growing any more and did she even consider that perhaps the police thought Walter had grown too much already. When Walter’s brothers watched the part that shows him running did they flash back to those early days when as boys they ran as fast as they could across South Carolina fields flapping their arms up and down, hoping against hope that one day they would fly, so high, and be free. And as they watched Walters blood sink down into the dirt did they think of the many thousands of other Black people whose blood nurtured the same soil going all the way back to the days of slavery. Enough is fucking enough!
In the end, Walter’s family bravely demanded the truth be known. They turned the video over to the press and suddenly everything got stood on its head. The cop was exposed as a lying killer, fired from his job and charged with murder. And right away, the press, TV news anchors, police chiefs and government official started saying this time everything is different — after all there is a video and no one can deny what it shows. Look, there’s no doubt that without that video Walter Scott would have been what his killer called him, an angry Black man who made a cop fear for his life. And we should think about that every time we hear a murdering cop explain that he had to kill because his victim was “reaching for his gun” or lunging at him in a threatening way.
We’ve heard this before. There were plenty of cell phone videos and eyewitnesses to the police assassinations of Oscar Grant, Eric Garner and Michael Brown, to name just a few of the recent murders. And cops are rarely indicted let alone convicted. Even when cops are convicted of murdering our people and our youth, they get off easy instead of just straight up getting off. This system – with all of its politicians, judges, newspapers and cops – will not suddenly see the light and mend its ways. This system has enforced and thrived on the most inhuman oppression of Black people for hundreds of years. And now, when it no longer needs Black and Brown people, the system uses the cops to bring down a genocidal program against them. And no video is gonna change that.
I’ve written about police murders of Black and Brown people all over this country for about 35 years. My heart has been crushed over and over as I listened to the stories people told me about the way the police assassinated their loved ones. My brain has been set on fire. It never stops. And goddam, it has to end. It’s time is up! As I watch the video again and over again, it’s like a kaleidoscope is spinning in my head, flashing image after image of savage oppression carried out against Black people over hundreds of years. It builds up and drops down into my mouth and I want to scream No More! Time is Up! We cannot stand by and allow this system to continue crushing the lives of our people. It’s time to put an end to all this suffering. It’s time to put an end to a system that has thrived off of and enforced an unparalleled barbarism against our people for way too long. It’s time has long since come.
The video of Walter Scott being murdered by a North Charleston, South Carolina cop and the truth it tells can help things be different in a way that really matters right now. The truth it lays bare can help mark the day when thousands and thousands of us decide that this genocide has to stop and we are the ones to stop it. It can help spur many thousands of us to go out into the streets on April 14th in cities all over the country and shut this fucker down! Our youth don’t go to school on that day, our people don’t go to work and the entire murderous routine of this society is brought to a standstill. Yeah, I’ve written about police murdering and abusing our people for 35 years but my heart has never hardened and I yearn for the day we end these crimes and the system that spawns them. And I’m gonna be in the streets on April 14th – from can’t see to can’t see. Hope to see you standing next to me.