Charleston, South Carolina, is about to witness the trials of two men involved in racially charged shootings. Jury selection begins today in the state murder trial of Michael Slager, the former North Charleston police officer who gunned down unarmed Black motorist Walter Scott in April 2015. Slager, 34, said he stopped Scott for a broken brake light. At some point, Slager said that he feared for his life and shot and killed Scott. However, cellphone video taken by a witness showed Scott running away when he was shot at by Slager eight times; striking him in the back, in the upper buttocks, and once in the ear, according to the coroner. Slager is then seen placing his taser near Scott’s body and then later claimed that he was in fear of his life because Scott attempted to fight him and take his weapon. Slager faces state murder charges in the death of Walter Scott and was charged by the U.S. Justice Department with violating Scott’s civil rights, obstructing justice, and unlawfully using a weapon during the commission of a crime. If convicted, Slager faces life without parole.
On Nov. 7, 2016, the federal death penalty trial of Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof is scheduled to begin. Roof is an avowed White supremacist who reportedly sat in on the Bible study at Emmanuel AME Church for some time before announcing that he was there to “kill Black people. Before he started shooting, he allegedly said, “I have to do it. … You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” He reloaded five times before the shooting ended. Roof killed nine Blacks, six women and three men, including state Sen. Clementa Pinkney. After the shooting, police took Roof to Burger King because he was hungry after his mass killing.
The trials of Slager and Roof will take place in downtown Charleston directly across the street from one another. There is fear among Black activists that the trials could reopen racial strife if the public feels that justice is not being served. Charleston remained calm after the church shootings and was heralded as an example of forgiveness in the wake of the slayings of the members of Emmanuel AME. Roof’s lawyers have said he would plead guilty to 33 counts of hate crimes, obstruction of religion and firearms charges if prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.