The South Carolina law enforcement agency investigating the fatal police shooting of an apparently unarmed man who was shot in the back over the weekend said Thursday they knew almost immediately that something didn't appear right.
The statement by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division comes after attorneys representing victim’s family and others said they don’t believe North Charleston police officer Michael Slager would have been charged with murder if shocking video showing the deadly encounter had not come to light.
"There were inconsistencies including what appeared to be multiple gunshot wounds in Mr. Scott's back," SLED Chief Mark Keel said in a statement. He said the video did play a role in the investigation.
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"We believed early on that there was something not right about what happened in that encounter," he said. "The cell phone video shot by a bystander confirmed our initial suspicions."
Slager, 33, shot Walter Scott, 50, after a foot pursuit and altercation following a traffic stop in North Charleston Saturday.
Slager claimed Scott grabbed his Taser and he feared for his life, but video captured by a bystander appears to show an unarmed Scott running away from the officer, and Slager opening fire at some distance when the officer was in no apparent danger.
The video was released by an attorney representing Scott’s family on Tuesday. Slager was arrested and charged with murder the same day. On Wednesday Slager was fired and North Charleston's mayor ordered body cameras for police.
The man who shot the video, 23-year-old Feidin Santana, said in interviews Wednesday that he does not believe Slager would have been charged if not for his video. "Nothing would have happened," he said on MSNBC’s "All In with Chris Hayes."
Keel said his investigators notified higher-ups of their concerns a few hours after the deadly shooting. The agency continues to investigate the shooting and Keel encouraged others to come forward.
— Phil Helsel