Miles Scott clutched a framed photo of his father as the former police officer who fatally shot him came closer to learning his fate.
“I miss my father everyday,” he told a federal court in South Carolina on Wednesday. “I miss spending time with him. I miss watching football with him. I cry all the time. He loved me to death and he was always there for me.”
Looking scruffy and unshaven and wearing a gray-and-white-striped prison jumpsuit, former police officer Michael Slager sat still and stared straight ahead as the son of the 50-year-old unarmed black man he killed, Walter Scott, choked back tears.
Miles Scott, delivering his victim impact statement out of order to accommodate his high school schedule, urged US District Judge David Norton to impose the “strongest sentence” on the man who took the life of “my one and only father.”
Miles Scott, his voice shaky, sat next to his mother as he read the statement. Other members of the Scott family wept. Slager’s wife looked down as Miles Scott talked about his father missing his football games and graduation
“Your honor, I miss my dad so much I can’t sleep at night,” the young man said. ” As I get older my dad will never see me or his future grand kids. I never thought I would lose him at a young age and I still can’t believe he is gone.”
Norton could announce Slager’s punishment on Thursday, the fourth day of a sentencing hearing on a charge of violating the civil rights of Scott, whose fatal shooting on April 4, 2015, brought international attention to North Charleston.
The judge will hear more victim impact statements Thursday morning.
Slager pleaded guilty in May after his murder trial ended in a hung jury. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison on the civil rights violation. A probation officer recommended he serve a prison term between 10 and 13 years. The judge will impose the sentence.
The shooting death renewed “Black Lives Matter” protests after Scott, a father of four, became the latest in a series of controversial killings of black men by police. Slager is white.
In his closing statement, federal prosecutor Jared Fishman told the court that Slager shot Scott five times in the back “for running away, simply for having a broken taillight.” He said it was “time to call it what it was — a murder,” second-degree murder, specifically.
Defense attorney Andy Savage told the judge that Slager’s actions were criminal but did not amount to murder.
Wade Humphrey, who trains North Charleston Police Department officers, testified for the defense on Wednesday that Slager used the correct level of force and followed protocol during the shooting.
At one point, the judge asked Humphrey, “It’s not your opinion this was a righteous shooting?”
“No,” he replied.
Earlier, forensic psychiatrist Charles Morgan testified, after reviewing an evaluation of former officer, that Slager is “not impulsive” and that stress could have affected his recollection of the encounter with Scott.
On Tuesday, a forensic witness testifying for the defense told the court that Slager fought the unarmed suspect on the ground and warned, “Let go of the Taser before I shoot you.” The testimony was meant to bolster the ex-cop’s claim that Scott had reached for his stun gun.
The testimony of Grant Fredericks, a forensic video expert, came on the day the prosecution rested its case.
Norton this week heard prosecutors contend that Slager maliciously killed Scott and call for him to spend the rest of his days behind bars.
Slager’s attorneys have painted him as a dedicated and professional former law enforcement officer who’d never exhibited a tinge of racism.
Fight preceded shooting
Fredericks testified that his analysis of video showed Slager and Scott were engaged in an “altercation … a fight on the ground” before the shooting. But he said he did not see anyone kick or throw a punch.
Fredericks testified that from audio captured by a microphone on Slager he could hear the ex-cop call for backup and tell dispatchers to “step it up.”
The witness told the court he could hear Slager tell Scott, “Let go of the Taser before I shoot you.” Earlier, Fredericks testified that he heard Scott say, “This is abuse” and “F*** the police.”
Under cross-examination by Fishman, Fredericks said Scott was shot as he was running away from Slager.
He said the former officer later picked up and then dropped the Taser next to Scott’s body.
Why drop a weapon by a suspect?, the prosecutor asked.
“I don’t know of any cases why a law enforcement officer would intentionally move a weapon to a suspect,” the witness said.
On Monday, Slager’s attorney attacked the credibility of a bystander whose cell phone video captured the fatal shooting and said his client was not a racist.
“Nothing in his background from birth to today shows signs of any racial bias,” Savage said.
Witness: Shooting was an ‘abuse’
Feidin Santana — the man whose cell phone recording captured Slager firing eight times, striking Scott five times in the back — had a different take, saying he was in shock after what he saw that day.
“It was abuse and something that wasn’t necessary,” he said, describing Slager’s actions.
Slager first pulled Scott over for a broken taillight. Moments later, Scott ran away.
A foot chase followed. Slager’s first attempt to use the Taser on Scott did not stop him. A second deployment brought Scott to the ground, but he got up and took off again. Slager opened fire as Scott ran away for the final time.
On the stand during his state murder trial, an emotional Slager testified his mind was like “spaghetti” during the altercation with Scott that day.
He argued that even at 18 feet away, Scott posed a threat and could have turned around and charged him. “Scott would never stop after I gave him multiple commands to stop,” Slager said in November.
Slager testified Scott was much stronger, and though he couldn’t recall all the details, he remembered Scott wresting away his Taser and briefly pointing it at him. “I knew I was in trouble,” Slager said. “I was in total fear Mr. Scott didn’t stop, continued to come towards me.”
That’s when Slager said he pulled the trigger.