Defense witnesses: Michael Slager a good officer, killing Walter Scott ‘appropriate’ use of force

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The defense called witnesses at Michael Slager’s murder trial Tuesday who testified that the former patrolman was a good officer who got good performance reviews and although he used his Taser 14 times in five years, his use of force was appropriate.

“He was a very good officer,” testified North Charleston Sgt. Ronald Webb, who was subpoenaed by the defense and who was Slager’s immediate supervisor last year when Slager shot and killed an unarmed black motorist running from a traffic stop.

Slager faces 30 years to life if convicted in the April 2015 shooting death of 50-year-old Walter Scott. The shooting of Scott five times in the back was captured on cellphone video that stunned the nation.

Once the video was made public, Slager, 35, was charged with murder and fired by the department.

Darren Porcher, a criminal justice professor and a former New York City police officer who is considered an expert on the use of force by police, testified he reviewed police records and found Slager had deployed his Taser 14 times.

“My review had not revealed an instance when Officer Slager’s use of force was inappropriate,” he testified, adding “I may have personally used more force” in several situations Slager faced.

Porcher said using the Taser to apprehend Scott quickly was appropriate because Scott didn’t respond to commands to stop and Slager couldn’t be sure about the intentions of a second man in the car Scott ran from.

Porcher was not asked by either the defense or prosecution if he thought shooting Scott was an appropriate use of force.

Webb, Slager’s supervisor for six months before the shooting, testified Slager “got a pretty good appraisal” at the end of 2014.

He said the only complaint he could recall about Slager was during another traffic stop when a man asked that Slager’s supervisor come to the scene. The motorist, Webb said, was pretty upset about being pulled over.

“I couldn’t calm him down either. He was pretty outraged,” he said, adding that a third officer eventually reported to the scene.

North Charleston police Chief Eddie Driggers, also subpoenaed by the defense, said that he is not aware of Slager ever being reprimanded for misuse of force, misuse of his stun gun or misuse of his service revolver.

The defense contends Scott and Slager wrestled on the ground in the seconds before the shooting and Scott got control of Slager’s Taser and stunned the officer.

William Schneck, a trace evidence expert, testified that yellow paint found on the Taser matched paint from an asphalt path through a vacant lot where Scott was shot.

He also said yellow paint on a cellphone that Scott was carrying also matched paint from the path which has been referred to in the trial as the yellow brick road.

Dr. Thomas Owens, the chief medical examiner in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, testified for the defense that autopsy photos of Scott showed injuries consistent with the signs of a struggle. He said that there were abrasions and bruises on Scott’s hands, wrists, face and head that occurred before the shooting. The jury was shown the photos showing the injuries.

The Slager trial continues as an Ohio prosecutor announced Tuesday he will retry a defendant in a similar shooting involving a white police officer and a black motorist.

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