Criminal Justice

Police officer pleads guilty to federal charge in fatal shooting of unarmed black man

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Updated: A former police officer in South Carolina pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal civil rights charge for fatally shooting an unarmed man who ran away during a traffic stop for a broken brake light.

The former North Charleston officer, Michael Slager, admitted to using excessive force against Walter Scott, the Washington Post, CNN and Reuters report. Slager is white and Scott was black. The April 2015 shooting had been captured on video.

CNN posted the plea agreement (PDF) Tuesday. Slager pleaded guilty to a federal charge of deprivation of rights under the law for depriving Scott of the right to be free from unreasonable and excessive use of force by a police officer. The charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The guilty plea resolves federal and state prosecutions against Slager. Jurors in his state trial for the slaying were unable to reach a verdict in December, and a mistrial was declared.

The hung jurors had the option of finding Slager guilty of murder or manslaughter. He had argued in the state case that he believed he was in danger because Scott grabbed his Taser during a struggle.

Updated at 6:15 p.m. to note that Slager entered the plea.

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