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Walter Scott Death: Bystander Who Recorded Cop Shooting Speaks Out

Feidin Santana said there was a struggle between the unarmed man and the officer, but the officer had control of the situation before opening fire.
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/ Source: NBC News

The bystander who captured on video a white police officer shooting an apparently unarmed black man in the back in South Carolina thought about erasing the recording over fears of retaliation.

The video recorded by Feidin Santana shocked the nation when it was released this week. The footage resulted in Officer Michael Slager, 33, being arrested and charged with murder Tuesday for the shooting death of Walter Scott, 50, after a traffic stop in North Charleston Saturday.

"I won’t deny that I knew the magnitude of this, and I even thought about erasing the video," Santana said in an interview on MSNBC’s "All In With Chris Hayes" Wednesday.

"I felt that my life, with this information, might be in danger. I thought about erasing the video and just getting out of the community, you know Charleston, and living some place else," the 23-year-old said. "I knew the cop didn't do the right thing."

In an interview with TODAY's Matt Lauer on Thursday, Santana said: "I'm still scared."

"I say life changed in a matter of seconds. I never thought this would happen, that I would be a witness," he told TODAY's Matt Lauer in an exclusive interview Thursday. "I'm still scared."

Earlier Wednesday, Santana revealed himself as the videographer to "NBC Nightly News" anchor Lester Holt in his first interview since the shooting, and said Slager and Scott did struggle before the encounter turned deadly. But he said the officer did not appear to be in danger when he opened fire.

"Before I started recording, they were down on the floor. I remember the police [officer] had control of the situation," Santana said. "He had control of Scott. And Scott was trying just to get away from the Taser. But like I said, he never used the Taser against the cop."

"As you can see in the video, the police officer just shot him in the back," Santana said. "I knew right away, I had something on my hands."

Slager claimed Scott grabbed his Taser and that he feared for his life. The video shows an object being thrown to the ground and Scott running away, and a delay before the officer fires seven times, pauses, and fires an eighth time.

Scott's parents told TODAY on Wednesday they believe Scott fled from Slager because he owed child support and didn't want to go to jail again.

Santana said he turned over the video after reading the police report and hearing about it on the news. "It wasn’t like that, the way they were saying," Santana said on MSNBC. "I said, 'No ... this is not what happened.'"

Santana told NBC News that when he turned over the video to Scott's family, "they were very emotional when that happened, including me also."

"I thought about his position, their situation ... If I were to have a family member that would happen [to], I would like to know the truth," Santana said.

He has been called a "hero" by attorneys for the family, but Santana said there are no winners in the situation.

"It’s not something that no one can feel happy about. He has his family, Mr. Scott also has his family," Santana told NBC News. "But I think, you know, he [the officer] made a bad decision, and you pay for your decisions in this life."

"Mr. Scott didn’t deserve this, and there were other ways that can be used to get him arrested, and that wasn’t the proper way to do that."

Police Chief Eddie Driggers said when he watched the video of the encounter, "I was sickened by what I saw."

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey announced Wednesday that Slager was fired. He also ordered body cameras for the police force. Every officer on the street will wear one after a policy is established and the force is trained, Summey said.

Slager is being held without bond at Charleston County Jail.