The white police officer charged with murdering a black man following a traffic stop was a Coast Guard veteran who was previously exonerated over a separate complaint about improper use of force, documents show.
The charges against Officer Michael Slager, 33, came after cellphone video emerged showing the cop fatally shooting 50-year-old Walter Scott in the back.
Slager — who has two stepchildren and a baby on the way — had two complaints lodged against him in five years with South Carolina's North Charleston Police Department.
Documents released by the force show that one complaint in January 2015 involving failure to file a police report was sustained — though it was unclear what disciplinary action Slager faced, if any.
Slager was cleared of another complaint regarding use of force. In that case, a man alleged Slager had used his Taser for no reason and slammed him to the ground in September 2013. The officer was exonerated upon investigation, documents from the North Charleston Police Department show.
Slager's attorney David Aylor noted that the officer had "no disciplinary issues" during his time with the department, saying in a statement that his client believed he had followed appropriate procedure. Later Tuesday, Aylor said he was no longer representing Slager.
Prior to joining the force, Slager had worked as a waiter before joining the military spending several years with the U.S. Coast Guard, according to a job application filed with the City of North Charleston Police department. That application — filed and received in January 2009 — stated that Slager had not been convicted of a felony in the past seven years.
Documents show that Slager signed his "Oath of Office" with the force on March 1, 2010. In that, he pledged to "faithfully serve the citizens of this city" and voted to "never abuse my authority either by words or acts."
Police documents describe Slager as "enthused" when he reported for duty, with subsequent reports from that month on the job praising the new officer's work in handling and searching suspects. Slager demonstrated "great officer safety tactics" when encountering suspects and "kept calm" in a tricky situation, another document from March 2010 reports.
At the North Charleston Police Department, Slager was subject to annual in-service mandatory training — on everything from First Aid to firearms and Taser use. Slager routinely passed his certifications — even earning a perfect score on Taser Certification test questions in February 2011. His 2014 annual training — on subjects including ethics, bias base profiling and Taser use — and was signed off on in May 2014, and Slager re-passed a firearms qualification as recently as August 2014.
In addition to those certifications, documents also show that Slager was recertified by the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy in March 2013 having "met and successfully completed the in-service requirements" for a Class 1 Law Enforcement Officer — and that he completed a separate 10-hour "active shooter incident response training" course in December 2013.
Slager's appraisal forms consistently showed he met expectations for his job; his 2013 appraisal stated that the officer "demonstrates good time management in completing all assigned duties and case reports." The following year, the officer's assigned patrol unit "was found to be extremely clean and neat in order" in an appraisal.
According to the police records, Slager was involved in a "non-preventable" traffic accident in July 2014 when a driver put his vehicle in reverse and struck the officer's patrol car during a traffic stop. According to an accident report, the driver in question then fled the scene and the officer initiated a pursuit.
Slager said in a court appearance that he has two stepchildren and another child on the way. An online baby registry in the name of one Michael Slager from South Carolina lists a May 22, 2015, due date.