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Federal Charges Filed Against Michael Slager S.C. Cop in Walter Scott Shooting

A grand jury returned an indictment charging Michael Slager with civil rights violation, using a firearm in violent crime and justice obstruction.
Image: Michael Slager
Michael Slager is indicted by grand jury.

The South Carolina cop who was caught on a cellphone video shooting a fleeing motorist was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on a series of charges — including one that could result in a death penalty.

Michael Slager, who was fired by the North Charleston Police Department after last year's killing of Walter Scott, was indicted on charges of violating civil rights laws, using a firearm in committing a crime of violence, and obstructing justice in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man.

"This is historic," the Scott family's lawyer, Chris Stewart, said afterward. "What happened today is that the federal government says it stops now. Police brutality stops now."

Slager is white. Scott was black. And the message sent by the grand jury is not aimed at the good cops, Stewart said.

This April 8, 2015 file photo shows a placard tied to a fence outside the vacant lot where Walter Scott, the 50-year-old man who was fired at eight times was killed as he ran away from an officer after a traffic stop in North Charleston, South Carolina. The family of the black US motorist shot dead by a white police officer and the city of North Charleston, South Carolina, agreed to a settlement, the city's mayor said. The city council voted to approve the $6.5 million settlement on October 9, 2015, Mayor Keith Summey said in a statement.JIM WATSON / AFP - Getty Images

"This is a message to the ones who abuse people in this country," he said.

In the aftermath of Scott's death, police departments in South Carolina and across the U.S. are adopting body cameras and embracing reform, Stewart said.

"Walter Scott did not die in vain." he said.

"It's a bittersweet day," added Scott's brother, Anthony. "If it wasn't for that video camera.... we would not be here today."

Scott's mother, Judy, said she thanks God that her son "was the one that was used to pull the cover off of all the violence."

"I'm happy for that, but I'm sad because my son is gone," she said. "I pray that other mothers won't go through what I have been going through."

Walter Scott appears in a photo posted by his brother, Aaron Scott on Facebook. A police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina, was charged with murder after a cell-phone video was released of him fatally shooting Scott, who was apparently unarmed, in the back following a traffic stop.via Facebook

Slager, according to the indictment, misled investigators by falsely claiming that Scott was coming at him with a Taser when he fired his gun.

"In truth ... Slager repeatedly fired his weapon at Scott when Scott was running away from him," the indictment reads.

Slager fired eight times at Scott, who was 50 and whose deadly encounter with the cop began after a traffic stop.

One of the charges filed against Slager — depriving someone of their civil rights under color of law — carries a maximum penalty of death. In the federal system, a decision about whether to actually seek the death penalty will come later.

The ex-cop is expected to appear in court Wednesday afternoon face these new charges.

Slager was arrested after the video of the April 4, 2015 killing surfaced. He was placed in isolation at the Charleston County Jail for his own protection and given the number 0001514468.

Last June, a state grand jury indicted Slager for murder. He pleaded not guilty and was released in January after posting $500,000 bond.

Now under house arrest, Slager's state trial is set for Oct. 31.

The fatal shooting by Slager of the U.S. Coast Guard vet sparked nationwide protests over issues of police brutality and minorities .

Scott's death was recorded by bystander Feidin Santana, who first revealed himself to "NBC Nightly News" anchor Lester Holt.